Potato Soup meets the Onion Family

A few years ago, I received the Bouchon cookbook as a gift. This cookbook changed my kitchen life permanently. I cooked every recipe. Most more than once. I worked to achieve perfection, because that’s what Chef Thomas Keller demands.

The book is brilliant for so many reasons. The layers of herbs and textures and colors are remarkable in every dish. The attention to technical detail just flat out made me a better cook. It taught me the beauty of little acidic, spicy side dishes and condiments, for the way they made simply, perfectly prepared foods sing. I practiced my knife skills until I could brunoise with the best of them.

One of the first revelatory recipes I made from Bouchon was Potato Leek Soup. This was not my first potato soup. Julia Child’s Potage Parmentier was in my repertoire when I was in college. In my picnicking days, Craig Claiborne’s Vichyssoise was a constant companion. But when Chef Keller makes this soup, there’s not a single member of the onion family left behind, and that seemed like a very good idea.

This is a soup that takes about an hour to make. It’s hardly worth making, though, if you don’t have good homemade chicken stock. Strong, chicken-y and golden. The kind that gels when it cools.

I’ve included my super simple broth recipe – the one I’ve used for years and years, learned from my mother and my grandmother Mary. It’s the soup you make on a lazy Sunday afternoon. In my freezer, if there are fewer than four quarts, I get nervous.

(So nervous, in fact, that I’ll be pressure canning stock this week, and promise to write about it. I am beyond excited thinking of shelf stable stock. More freezer space!)

So start making this soup by getting all the ingredients out, and then get the oil and butter cooking as you chop the leeks, then the shallot, then the onion. Be precise. Make Chef proud.

After all the onions are chopped up, I veer off the Chef Keller path, and take a few liberties. My soup is a little more rustic than the original, and, if company’s coming, I recommend doing as they do at Bouchon and strain the soup through a sieve to get a super silky smooth texture. Garnish with something extra naughty – creme fraiche or Amanda Hesser’s savory whipped cream.

If you’re making family dinner, don’t bother peeling the potatoes, leave out the cream, and toss together a spicy, crisp, acidic salad, slice a crispy baguette and some Wild Boar Sausage (Meatcrafters at the Bethesda Central Farm Market.) It’s fall and this is what dinner looks like at our house.

19 thoughts on “Potato Soup meets the Onion Family”

  1. This is my favorite soup – I can’t wait to try your recipe! Hoping to attack “Ad Hoc” together somehow, maybe have a group of us try a recipe the same weekend? Lovely post – best, Liz

  2. I think I will have to make this soup soon – I’m only just starting to think “fall.” We’ve been enjoying that wild boar sausage too! It’s fabulous. Your photos look great, btw.

  3. Cathy, fabulous post! My grandma’s soup was similar to yours and she always used to make schmaltz for us (she mixed in fried onions). I have wonderful memories of smearing schmaltz on matzoh…ahh. I adore the Ad Hoc book, it is right next to me here at my desk, funny enough I was looking at it last week for inspriration. Thanks so much for posting this 🙂

    1. Thanks, Wendy. My grandma made schmaltz by rendering the fat with minced onion. But she also saved the fat scraped from the top of the soup. She used it all the time and I miss it! 🙂

  4. I’ve made chicken stock for years and a few years into it learned to leave the skin on the onions. I think it adds a great rich color (and flavor). The soup and the book sound great!

    Curious about pressure cookers. Any recommendations?

  5. Just made the soup; pretty amazing depth of flavor compared to Julia’s recipe (which is no slouch of a recipe). We’re a meat free household, so I used veggie stock. Soup would do better with a slight savory twang, but still earned the rare partner nod of approval. So yes, I encourage people to make this even if they don’t have chicken stock that is so good I can nearly smell it through my screen!

  6. Ok, it hit 93 here today, so probably not this evening, but I am SO looking forward to making this. And you’ve reminded me that I want to get my Ad Hoc book out again too. >Mwah!<

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  8. This sounds delicious, and you’ve inspired me to make my own chicken stock. I love potato leek soup with watercress, too!

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  10. Stumbled across this looking for a leek and potato soup that included shallots. We live in Mexico City and shallots arent always available in our neighborhood. Needless to say when I saw some this last week I bought quite a bit. 😉 will be browsing the rest of your lovely blog for recipes, so glad google sent me here!

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