Saturday, November 13, 2010

Hearty Garlic-Potato Soup

Warning: This recipe is "plant your butt on a sofa" comfort food.

Which is good because I need some comforting. I have been relocating our Johnson City office to Greeneville this week and I am worn out. I have jokingly called this week my "on schedule, under budget, in pain" tour.

But when I got back to Knoxville last night, as tired as I was, I found myself wanting, no needing to cook. So it was off to the back deck for a little Big Green Egg therapy.

You could also make this on your stove top but like Jim Morrison of The Doors always said:

"You know that it would be untrue. You know that I would be a liar. If I were to say to you, I'm not in the mood to cook with fire."
[Authenticity of this quote might be questionable]

Hearty Garlic Potato Soup
Adapted from: America's Test Kitchen Magazine Best-Ever Recipes

3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 leek, white and light green parts only (see instructions for processing note)
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp all purpose flour
3 cloves garlic minced
2 whole bulbs garlic, paper removed and top 1/3rd cut off like you do for roasting
6 cups chicken broth, low sodium
2 bay leaves
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and 1/2" diced (about 3 medium potatoes)
1 lb red bliss potatoes, peeled and 1/2" diced (about 4 large)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp thyme, fresh
1/4 cup fresh chives, snipped

The original recipe called for fried garlic chips but I found them to be bitter. Fortunately, I had also made fried leek rings and they worked out better so I'm leaving out the chips although you'll see them in the picture.

Fried Leek Ring Garnish
Cut the roots and green tops off of the leek. Cut off about 1" from the white end and then cut it into about 4 slices. Push the middle rings out with your pinky and discard the smallest inner rings. Separate the outer layers into individual rings so you'll have a bunch of tiny "onion" rings. Toss lightly in the flour. The dampness of the flour should help the flour stick to the leek rings, you aren't trying to batter it.

Heat the oil in a small skillet and fry the leeks about 60 seconds, flipping once. You just want a light, crispy brown color. Remove to a cooling rack over a paper towel.

Now this step is very important, especially when you have had a bad week. Notice that the leek roots you cut off remind you of the Flock of Seagulls hair cut and have a "I Love The 80's Mr. Potatohead moment".

Dice the rest of the piece of leek. That should give you about 1/2 to 3/4 cup. You could substitute a mild onion.

I set up Alexis' BGE for direct heat at 325f and preheated our #12 Lodge cast iron dutch oven. You'll notice the absence of potatoes. That's because they don't go in for a while.

Add the butter and let melt. Saute the leeks for 5-8 minutes until softened. This will test your fire management skills, because when you are frequently opening the grill to stir, it's letting air in and feeding the fire. Watch your temperatures and adjust accordingly.

Add the minced garlic and saute another minute. Add the whole garlic bulbs (cut side up), bay leaves, salt, and broth.

Now I get to use one of my favorite words ever. I could say "ajar", "askew", "tilted" or or even say "partially covered" like the magazine did. But no. Place the Dutch oven lid on so it is catawampus.

Close the grill, stabilize the temperature at about 350 - 375f, and bring the soup to a simmer. Cook for 40 minutes. I find that with the hot cast iron in there, it really doesn't take much air flow at this point to keep the temps up. I only had the bottom vent open this much for the first 20 minutes or so.

After the 40 minutes, add the diced potatoes, cover (catawampusly, of course) and cook 15 to 20 more minutes.

Carefully remove the Dutch oven from heat. Don't worry that it doesn't look creamy yet.

Find and discard your two bay leaves.

Remove the two heads of garlic and squeeze the bulbs out like you would do to roasted garlic. Mash them with a fork and add about half of that paste to the soup.

Fold in the cream and thyme, cover with the lid (tightly this time, not all catawampus), and let rest for 5 minutes. The cast iron's carryover heat is still cooking.

Taste for seasoning and add salt (I added maybe 1/2 tsp), pepper (~1/2 tsp), and more of the garlic paste (I didn't add any more).

Use a slotted spoon to get about 2 cups of potatoes out of the soup into a blender. Add about 1 cup of the liquid. Puree for about 20 seconds. Be careful using a blender with hot liquid, I actually did this in two small batches of 1 cup potato/ half cup soup. Return to the soup mixture and stir it in.

Garnish with fried leek rings and chives.

Without hesitation, I will tell you that this is the creamiest, best tasting potato soup I have ever had. The only thing that would have made it better would have been if it was 30 degrees colder outside.

America's Test Kitchen wasn't lying when they added this to their currently available special collector's edition Best-Ever Recipes. Alexis found our copy at Food City for $9.95. It's available until December 13th so keep your eyes out for it. [Standard FTC Disclaimer].

Giveaway Reminder:
Both Larry of BBQ Grail and Curt of Livefire are each giving away a Masterbuilt Indoor Electric Turkey Fryer. Larry's giveaway ends Sunday and I think Curt's ends on Wednesday, so you can have it in your grubby little paws by Thanksgiving. Click on the links and enter both of them today.