Pink Potato & Leek Soup

Look at these! The prettiest potatoes ever! I saw these beauties at the McCarren Park Greenmarket on Saturday and couldn’t pass them up. They’re called Adirondacks and they were developed by potato breeders (I can’t believe that is a real job!) at Cornell. As creepy and Monsanto-y as ‘developing potatoes’ sounds, I was assured by the farmers who grew them that they came from heirloom hybrids and were grown sustainably in Upstate New York.

As soon as I bought them I knew that I’d need to find a recipe that highlighted the beautiful color in the best way. A friend who works in the market and has used these taters previously warned me that they were incredibly starchy to the point that mashing, whipping, or pureeing them would turn them into a gluey mess. I didn’t want to chop and roast, because the color would be lost under caramelization, and baking them whole seemed sort of boring for such special lil’ guys.

I decided that a simple, rustic soup would show off the bright pink hues best, and what better partner for pink potatoes than beautiful green leeks? I love vichyssoise, but this peasant-style version came together beautifully and the flavors of the leeks shine through much more than they would in a pureed version. I served this soup with big hunks of rustic bread and dark beer. It was the perfect meal for a chilly, early fall night. If you can’t find the elusive Adirondack Red potato, classic red-skinned will do just fine.

My roommate and I n0ticed that the cubes of red potato looked a lot like cubes of hamsteak which, of course, made me decide that next time I make this I’ll use some bacon fat in place of butter to cook the leeks, and then add in some ham hock. Mmmm… can’t wait for the next batch!

Potato & Leek Soup
Loosely adapted from America’s Test Kitchen and David Lebovitz
serves 6

6 tbsp unsalted butter
4-5 leeks, white and light green parts only, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 small shallot, minced
1 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped, plus more for garnish
6 cups vegetable stock (homemade is best)
1 1/2 lbs Adirondack Red potatoes, neatly diced
1/4 cup crème fraiche
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large stockpot over medium heat, sauté leeks in butter and a sprinkling of salt, stirring often, until lightly caramelized. Add in garlic and shallot and continue cooking, stirring often, until leeks are fully caramelized. Stir in the flour and the thyme and stir until the mixture thickens slightly. Slowly add in the stock while stirring. Add potatoes and bay leaves. Bring up to a boil and then simmer, uncovered, for about 7 minutes. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for 15 minutes. Remove bay leaves and season with salt and pepper. Garnish each bowl with a dollop of crème fraiche, cracked pepper, and a sprinkling of minced thyme.