If you followed your childhood dreams, would it lead to ultimate happiness?
When I was a kid, I wasn’t into cartoons. I watched Jacques Pépin with my grandmother who was an incredible cook. She was French- he was French- it all made sense. Food fascinated me and playtime revolved around exploring my curiosity. I made up recipes, hosted imaginary cooking shows, and mastered that Easy Bake Oven like nobody’s business.
Then school happened.
Each year it got more demanding and playtime inevitably dwindled. My creative path fulfilled itself in other directions and food took the back burner. At age 17, I chose to leave high school. I didn’t dropout- I was ready to move on in search of something more (whatever that was). I graduated early and moved 2,000 miles across the country to begin college in the desert. Arizona would be my new home for the next 4 years. I worked hard, studied abroad, and got to see the world. But eventually, time ran out. What was my plan? What was I going to be? I had no answers for anyone.
I felt like a fraud.
Back home, I settled into ‘real’ life and got a job. And hated it.
What did it all mean?!
True to form (and years later), I took a leap of faith: culinary school.
It was time to get back to my roots and be with my people.
The significance of this recipe is twofold:
Potato leek soup was one of the very first things I learned to make at school. Yukon golds are sliced and simmered with leeks and pureed until smooth. Garnished with cracked black pepper and celery leaves, it’s a simple soup with delicate flavor.
Plus, after whining about my potato surplus, I figured a soup would be better than a retaining wall ;)
But more importantly, something very serendipitous happened as a result of my decision.
While prepping ingredients at school one day, I heard a familiar voice. A familiar voice with an accent. It sounded just like Jacques Pépin... could it be? Jacques Pépin was the dean of my school. Never in my wildest dreams did I think he would make the rounds in class. But he did! He came right over to my station, looked at me straight in the face and told me I had bad posture (apparently, I like to shift my weight to one side when I stand- no good).
That’s all I needed to hear.
It brought me right back to my grandmother’s floor where we sat together and watched Jacques on TV. I couldn’t believe it. Who knew that all these childhood memories would hold the answer? Culinary school was exactly where I needed to be even though my plan was not concrete- I’m still figuring it out. But there was movement in the right direction.
Life works in mysterious ways, doesn’t it?
- To clean the leeks, slice them into rounds and soak in a big bowl of water. All of the dirt will sink to the bottom.
- Do not over blend the soup. Potatoes have a tendency to take on a gummy texture when over processed. Blend gently, in batches.
- 2 lbs. yukon gold or russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
- 4 c. chopped leeks, white + light green part only
- 1 small celery stalk
- 1 clove of garlic, sliced
- 1 quart of chicken stock
- 1 c. milk
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- salt + pepper
- celery leaves
- In a large heavy bottom pot, warm the olive oil over moderate heat.
- Saute the leeks, celery, and garlic until soft, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add the sliced potatoes and enough stock to cover all of the ingredients. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer until the potatoes are tender and cooked through, about 20-30 minutes.
- Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender with the lid vented. Add more stock or water if it's too thick. Process gently; over blending will create a gummy texture. Alternatively, use a hand held immersion blender.
- Return the soup to the pot and add the milk.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Serve warm and garnish with celery leaves.