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!