Seasonal Recipes: Early Spring Leeks and Potato Soup with Bacon
Roll with the Seasons!
Or, rolls even, would be a great accompaniment to this fresh early springtime soup.
Wild leeks, also called ramps, are one of the earliest wildharvests to begin sprouting throughout forest typically from mid-March through April. Bunches of dark green leaves at the top of the plant turn lighter green and sometimes reddish through the stalk, down to a white root that smells and tastes like mild onion.
If you're so inclined, find some to dig yourself! Or find them in local farm markets around this time of year. Adding them to a creamy potato soup base with bright carrots and hearty, smoky bacon makes Early Spring Leek and Potato Soup a dish the whole family will appreciate - and eat up hungrily and happily!
A Note about Wildharvesting Leeks
Leeks are usually easy to find and fun to harvest right alongside wild chives in the early parts of spring. The entire plant is edible, and the root and stalk are the most commonly used parts of the plants. Dig leeks up by their roots, remembering to plunk a chunk of root back into the ground so you'll have leeks in the years to come!
Be aware that leeks can look like daffodils, which sprout around the same time of year. Both have full, lush green leaves that first come up in tight groups. Leeks tend to turn reddish towards the bottom of the stalk and will smell like a mild onion.
Daffodil bulbs, on the other hand, are poisonous to eat. Wait until the flower blooms and decorate your home with the bright and lovely yellows of early springtime.
Ingredient Choices and Substitutions
Leeks: Early spring leeks are small and mild. This recipe calls for a small bundle of about 9 or so, which could be substituted with 3 larger, fully grown leeks.
Potatoes: Yukon gold potatoes hold up well to cooking and cutting, though you can use any potato. Here I used russet potatoes, which mushed a little while cutting but added great dynamic to the texture of the soup. You could also use double the amount of small red potatoes. For easier prep, cook red potatoes with the skins on, then slip them off before dicing.
Spices: Your spice content will vary depending on what is already contained in your chicken broth or stock. I used homemade salt-free broth, so I needed to add 3 - 4 tsp of salt to flavor the broth and the potatoes. It seems like a lot, but keep this in mind if there's no salt already added to your other ingredients. Onion and garlic powder add zest and depth to flavor, but are optional. I would keep the black pepper.
About Cleaning Leeks
Leeks are easy to clean if you follow these simple steps:
1. Rinse the whole leek under cold water, removing any dirt, debris, and loose plant material around the root area (commonly found in wildharvest).
2. Cut the roots off right along the very bottom.
3. When chopping, chop up through the light green part of the stalk. If using small early spring leeks, just chop like green onion. If using bigger full grown leeks, slice lengthwise first, then chop. The darker green leaves are tougher and more potent in flavor, but can be used in soups. I usually chop the darkest green part of the leaves off and throw them to the compost pile. It's your soup, so it's your choice!
4. Once chopped, wash chopped leeks by hand in a bowl of cold water to remove any remaining dirt. Strain through a mesh strainer and give them a final rinse.
Your leeks are now dirt-free and ready to use!
- about 9 early spring leeks, or 3 big, fully grown leeks
- 2 Tbsp butter, for sauteing
- 9 potatoes, Yukon gold
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 1 - 3 tsp salt, to taste
- 1 - 3 tsp black pepper, to taste
- 1 tsp onion powder, (optional)
- 1 tsp garlic powder, (optional)
- 1/2 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
- 2 cups milk
- Cook potatoes and carrots: peel, rinse, and half potatoes. Peel and dice carrots. Cover with water in a large sturdy soup pot and bring to boil. Reduce heat and cook until potatoes just start to turn fork tender, about 10 - 12 minutes. Drain. When cool enough to handle but still warm, cut potatoes into bite sized pieces, and return potatoes and carrots to pot.
- Saute leeks in butter, about 3 - 4 minutes. Add to soup pot.
- Add chicken broth, bacon, and spices to soup pot. Bring to low boil, then reduce heat and simmer. Cook for at least 20 minutes, or low and slow up to an hour to build flavor. Stir occassionally.
- Add milk. Bring soup back up to almost a boil, taking care not to boil the milk. Reduce and simmer about 5 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid scorching.
Make It, then Rate It!
Soup's On - and Ready!
Nothing satisfies down home ambiance like a simmering soup. Early Spring Leek and Potato Soup is both a fresh and hearty dish that will fill your home with scents of the season, and fill your belly with nature's generous offerings of the season.
Serve with bread and salad, and share a pot with your family this evening. Enjoy!
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