Potage parmentier (Julia Child's potato and leek soup)

Simplicity itself.. thats how Julia Child had described this soup - in one of her b&w television episodes which had aired on PBS a while back. And then I picked up the book 'Julie and Julia' and heard Julie Powell rave about this simple few ingredient soup all over again.

Now I have never been a minimalist at heart.. I mean, okay, I don't regularly sweat cooking recipes with 20+ ingredients (or may be only rarely when I am crazy enough) but making a soup with mere 5 ingredients (potatoes, leeks, salt, pepper, butter) as a main-dish for dinner needed guts from my part. But then, when you see a great chef like Julia Child convince you in her commanding voice calling this soup 'simplicity itself' and then you hear Julie rave about it in the book, this recipe just becomes too difficult to pass by!

There was a problem though; I am one of those people (aptly described in the book as 'wimpy') who cringe when adding generous quantities of butter to the dishes, particularly to savory dishes (my logic goes that if I have to take the butter, then let it atleast be for something divine like Tiramisu or a triple chocolate cake). Anyway, so being who I am, I substituted olive oil for butter. Please feel free to use butter though, I am sure it would taste better with butter.

The verdict? The soup was absolutely delicious! My husband and I enjoyed multiple helpings of it with a good crusty toasted whole-wheat bread and loved it. My husband just couldn't believe that there were no extra spices in it. Now, I did add two more ingredients, celery and lemon juice/zest; the former because there were some sad looking celeries in fridge that needed to be used up soon (I am sure Julia would approve of not wasting produce :D) and lemon because I just love the freshness and tartness of it.

Source: Inspired from 'Julie and Julia' book description of this soup.
1 large leek
3-4 small/medium potatoes (I used 1 russet and 3small yellow boiling potatoes)
4 sticks of celery
5C water
salt & pepper
lots of olive oil (original recipe called for few slugs of butter)
1 lemon

** As with any soups, the trick is to not let the soup boil vigorously while cooking. It is even more important for this soup as this soup has minimal ingredients and no spices. You let the soup come to a boil at first and then reduce the heat so that the soup barely simmers (does not boil). Cover and cook.
** Leeks are from onion family. They have a much milder onionish flavor. If you can't find leeks, yellow mild onions could be a substitute but the flavor will be compromised.
** Don't run the soup through blender; use a masher of some kind of crush it so that the final soup still has good consistency with bits of potatoes and leeks alongwith some smooth puree.
** A good crusty toasted bread would really make your experience of eating this soup. Use garlic bread if you want.
  1. Slice and clean the leeks in multiple water changes to remove all the dirt trapped inside.
  2. Add chopped leaks, sliced potatoes (I left the skin on for a more rustic look), chopped celery with enough water and salt in a soup pot.
  3. Let the mixture come to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and simmer covered for 30-45mins until the potatoes are very tender.
  4. Using a potato masher mash the soup in the soup pot so it still has some bits and pieces but resembles a soupy consistency.
  5. Turn off the heat. Add butte/olive oil, salt & pepper.
  6. Adjust the seasonings. Add some lemon juice and lemon zest. 
  7. Serve with some crusty toasted bread.
Topping ideas:
Crushed red pepper flakes
lemon juice and lemon zest
flavored lemon oil

As you can probably guess this month's 'this book makes me cook' book-club's pick was 'Julie and Julia' by Julie Powell. This is a story of one of our favorite food-blogger's journey through discovering her love for cooking and food-blogging at a time in her life when everything seems to be falling apart. This book traces her ups and downs in food blogging, the connections she makes with her readers; the new life perspective she gains; and ultimately the sweet rewards and the missing direction in her life that she finds cooking through an entire Julia Child book in a year. 

The story line is captivating, particularly to all the food-bloggers who to some extent go through the same journey - the ups and downs; the frustration when a recipe doesn't turn out well, the eagerness through which we await reader inputs; and the amount of love and energy that all the home-cooks worldwide invest in their little space on www. 

I enjoyed reading the book; though at times it seemed to have dragged on forever. I did not feel the connection or the parallel lives that Julia and Julie lead in the book compared to the movie version. Overall, a delightful read but this might be the first book where I actually liked the Meryl Streep's movie better than the book!


Bombay Foodie said…
Love your soup. It's just like Julia would make it :)
It is amazing how with just simple ingredients this turns out delicious. Thanks for the tips PJ and love that beatiful bowl too...
Justin said…
hmm, now i'm curious to see how this super-simple soup tastes
sangeeta said…
Lovely soup and i love simplicity in food ....simplicity is the toughest thing to practice i have experienced though.

i liked your addition of lemon zest and keeping the potato skin on......

not blending a soup smooth is so my type..

someone has suggested me to watch the movie n to read this book too , i am looking forward to it.
Preeti Kashyap said…
Lovely soup..I make it too, but minus the lemon zest. I loved the movie better too....i cldn't finish reading it actually...it was taking forever!
This is absolutely delicious PJ, i love ur addition of a zing with zest and celery , an absolutely delicious hearty soup, and yeah i agree, Im sure Julie and Julia would agree:-)))
I so muc want that book too:-)))
Ok looks like ur post is up and incase ur busy or forget lemme annouce my GIVEAWAY HERE:-))))


Pari Vasisht said…
Hi. This is my favorite, favorite soup. I just love this for it's simplicity and the rich creamy taste which the two impart. I think I had posted my version a long time back for my SIL who is in love with it.
I loved ur add of lemon zest and olive oil.
Btw, I liked the movie too.
Ann said…
AHH!! lovely presentation. Adding lemon zest is very interesting.
tinyskillet said…
Ahh yes, the marrying of the foods perfectly creating a simply divine dish! :D You are so funny though, still having to add something else(sounds like me). I love the simplicity of your presentation too. It looks wonderful. I like potato and leek soup, so I will definitely try this one.
PJ said…
Simran, thanks! Glad you liked it.

Treat and Trick, thanks! SO true, simple ingredients can sometimes come together and make something wonderful.

Justin, i loved the simplicity of it and the taste of-course! great with a good crusty bread.

Sangeeta, i used to blend soups before but now i much prefer the rough texture that comes by crushing it than blending. So glad you liked the soup!

Preeti, oh, you should try lemon zest, its wonderful.. gives a nice lemony full-body flavor to it.

Mia, thanks! Try the movie if you have a choice between movie and the book.. i felt the movie was much better done. looking fwd to your give-away.
Cool Lassi(e) said…
Nice soup in a nice bowl! After seeing that movie I have been wanting to buy that book as well. Thanks for inquiring abt my allergies dear! Happy weekend!
Oooh I too simply love this leek soup.. almost same way I make.. by the way the bowl is awesome.
PJ said…
Pari, I so agree! I'll check out your version too.. movie is much better.

Ann, thanks! I love lemon zest in kind of everything.

Lyndsey, I had a lot of trouble digesting the idea of just a soup for dinner and at that a 5 ingredient soup :)

Cool Lassi(e), movie is much better though.. book drags on a lot at times.

Pavithra, thanks! I got that by chance at my local grocery store. Glad you liked it.
Sometimes the simple things in life are the best. This is a great recipe, I also like your addition of lemon and celery. Nicely done.
Sonia said…
I have seen 'Julie & Julia' movie. Both J&J uses tons of butter which almost gave me a heart-attack!! :D I haven't read the book though.
Oh..simplicity is the best. I can say this soup has a fantastic flavor but I wud love to add little butter though. :)
Sushma Mallya said…
Simple & lovely soup, love the flavours in it..
indosungod said…
If you were inspired by the book, I am inspired by the way you describe the soup. Love the way the soup looks too and I can imagine the taste with some crusty bread.
Priya Suresh said…
I do this soup often, my all time favourite...A comforting food for me..
Maninas said…
what a a beautiful wooden bowl you've got!
tasteofbeirut said…
Love that soup, I have made it many times !
PJ said…
Adele, thanks! I agree with you that simple things in life are sometimes the best. Glad you liked it.

Sonia, yeah, they don't talk about Tbsps on butter but instead sticks of butter! Gave me a heart-attach just reading about it :)

Sushma, thanks! I am glad you liked it.

Indo, thanks! A good bread will really make the experience of eating this soup as a nice sturdy crusty bread will soak up all the tasty bits.
Kalai said…
Sure it sounds as simple, as the author has described herself! A lovely soup in a perfect bowl to be savored right away!
PJ said…
Priya, thanks! Glad you liked it.

Maninas, thanks! Difficult to believe it but I happen to spot it in local Walmart while I was passing by the kitchen aisle.

Hari, thanks! Glad you liked it.

TasteOfBeirut, thanks! Glad you liked it.

Kalai, thanks! Glad you liked it.
shahana said…
Lovely presentation as always! Nice bowl!
SathyaSridhar said…
Woooow soup looks complete filling one for nice dinner...well presented dear.
Kanchan said…
Quite new to me, I dunoo what is Leek, would like to know tat !
Anushree said…
Awesome! Never thought we could make something with so little!
One question...I looked up leeks on the web since I didnt know it! They look similar to spring onions. So wanted to ask you if it is similar in taste and if it could be substituted with onion stems.
PJ said…
Shahana and Sathya, thanks!

Kanchan, leek is a derivative of onion family. It has a mild onion flavor: here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leek is a wiki for it.

Anushree, yeah, its an onion derivative with a much milder flavor. EIther onion on spring onion would be a good substitute, if you can't find leeks. Glad you liked it!
Namitha said…
Never tried any of Julia Child recipes so far..I have seen the movie Julie and Julia, but haven't read the book :-)
Soup looks so yumm
Padmajha said…
PJ,I made this soup a couple of months ago and am yet to post it.Maybe I should do it soon.Your version is nice,will try this too...
Anonymous said…
Cant take my eyes off that bowl. it looks great..this post reminded me abt the move julie and julia
San said…
PJ leek soup looks appetizing with the healthy ingredients and it has come out perfect. I like the simplicity of the recipe.
Cham said…
Leek potage is very classy French soup! The bowl is very attractive and appetizing!
PJ said…
Namitha, some of her recipes are really good; if you are non-vegetarian then the choice is even better. Book is okay though (movie is much better).

PJ, oh, you should definitely post it soon. I look forward to seeing your rendition of this soup!

MunchCrunchandSuch, thanks! That bowl was a freak find in Walmart one day for $2!

San, thanks! I am so glad you liked the soup.

Cham, yeah, the soup has a lot of French elements to it. I am glad you liked the bowl; it was an unexpected find at local Walmart!
It isn't Julia Child if it doesn't have "buttah"! According to her if you're worried about the butter, sub with cream!! LOL

Having said that, I myself did a reduced butter recipe. :)
Rachana said…
Wow!!! This is simply delicious dear:) I love your addition of lemon zest to the soup.
Joanne said…
Five ingredients? I don't even remember what cooking a dish that simple feels like.

It certainly LOOKS delicious...and if I trust anyone it is Julia Child. And YOU!
this was an all time fav during winter...its so simple, yet unbelievably tasty and filling...
Sunitha said…
Hm...if you say its tasty I believe you but I don't think I would have just seeing the recipe. The soup looks great and you writing has convinced me that I should try it too. I saw the movie too but never read the book. I am glad I didn't since you say the movie is better.
Anonymous said…
I loved the movie too! Butter or not..this soup looks divine!
Anushree said…
Great...thanks for the reply!
Umm Mymoonah said…
Hmm.. the soup looks mouthwatering
Myvegfare said…
Hi, PJ
your potato and leek soup looks delicious, I kept writing all the names of the dishes while I was reading the book,thought I could try this out as my family loves potatoes, but made something else!! how true you have written it perfectly well, Sometimes it really kept on dragging with too many F words and yes me too.., I liked the movie better and found their is some connection at least in the movie!!