Soup’s On!

Credit where credit is due: One of the things that inspired me to start this blog was watching the movie “Julie/Julia’ and later reading the book upon which the movie is based. In the spirit of Julie Powell and Julia Child, today I am going to tell you what happened when I made Child’s famous Potage Parmentier, known in English as Potato Leek Soup.
As Child and Powell both claim, the soup is very easy to make and has only a few ingredients: potatoes, leeks, water, salt and pepper, and butter. I haven’t read “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” but I’m willing to wager that the soup is the easiest recipe in that book.
What neither Julie nor Julia mentions is that, once the soup begins cooking, it smells. Leeks are, of course, members in good standing of the onion family, and any doubts you might have about that will be erased once and for all once you smell them in the pot. An eye-watering, stomach-turning, appetite-destroying odor! Phew!
Bravely, I dipped a piece of toast into the simmering soup to see if it tasted as bad as it smelled. Surprisingly, it didn’t taste bad at all. If it had I would have had no qualms at all about pitching the whole pot out and ordering in a pizza. But I persevered.
You’re supposed to swirl the butter into the soup toward the end of the cooking time, and once I did that, the smell immediately got much better. It was really amazing how a little (okay, kind of a lot) of butter could go so far toward neutralizing that awful onion smell. My eyes stopped watering, my stomach stopped turning and my appetite returned.
The moment of truth arrived. Dinner is served! The verdict: mixed. The soup was good and hot, an important factor on a chilly and damp autumn evening. And anything with all that butter can’t be all bad, can it?
Those were the pros. The cons were:
First, the Texture. Very thin. It’s been my experience that potatoes tend to make any soup thicker when they’re pureed, but in this case the spuds didn’t do much in the way of thickening.
Secondly, and This is the most mysterious part of the whole business, the leeks just disappeared. If I hadn’t known they were in there, I’m not sure I could have detected them by taste. It was very strange. They’d smelled so vile earlier, you’d think they’d at least add a little oniony bite to the finished product. Not so. It was mostly a potato-and-butter flavor, and I would have to describe it as bland. I improved it somewhat by adding some leftover cooked bacon to it, but if I was ever to make this soup again, I’d add a nice chunk of ham to the pot and maybe some other vegetables and even a dash of hot sauce too.
so, the final word on Potage Parmentier: one thumb up, one thumb down.
Bon appetit!

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3 Responses to “Soup’s On!”

  1. Antoine Says:

    Being as the noble leek is a potent symbol for we of Welsh ancestry, I should love potato leek soup. No. We onion-fed Americans have a hard time working up an appreciation for the noble leek.

  2. ghostscribe Says:

    Beets, now, there’s an overlooked and underappreciated vegetable! They’d make a lovely rosy-hued soup, if nothing else. Beets need to go beyond borscht!

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