Rain Chaser: Potato, Leek and Fennel Soup

soup35 degrees F on Monday, 63 degrees F and torrential rains and flooding on Saturday. What a difference a week can make!

Time for something to chase away the damp dreariness of the day, and soup always makes me happy. One of my most favorite vegetable dishes, usually made during the holidays, is a potato, leek and fennel gratin. I made it this year for Christmas dinner, was going to share it with you and then promptly forgot to take the final photo before we devoured it! I can, however, point you to the recipe here, and trust me it is well worth the effort to make.

And because those flavors were still so fresh in my memory, and I happened to have lots of potatoes on hand, I decided to make the gratin into a soup. Much like a vichyssoise, this soup starts with the potato and leeks as its base, but has a mild anise flavor, a sweetness and richness from the addition of fennel. The three vegetables marry into something quite extraordinary, and a touch of cream adds a velvety and satisfying finish to the soup. I decided the best way to incorporate the parmesan from the gratin was in the form of a crouton floating on top and sprinkled with fennel fronds. Delicious soup, warm or cold.

There’s more rain in the forecast for Monday…maybe it’s time for a Raindog, too!

Not just for a rainy day, it's great for any day of the year!

Not just for a rainy day, it’s great for any day of the year!

Potato, Leek and Fennel Soup
Makes 6-8 portions

2 leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned well and diced (about 3 1/2 cups)
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and sliced thinly, reserve 1 1/2 tablespoons of the fronds (leaves)
2 lbs. white potatoes, peeled and cubed (I used a mix of Yukon and Idaho, but red skinned are nice, too.)
8 cups chicken broth or stock, low or no sodium
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 baguette thinly sliced
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Melt the butter in a large soup pot over medium low heat. Add the leeks and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock, fennel, potatoes and 1 teaspoon of the salt, stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer, cover and allow the soup to cook until all of the vegetables are very tender, about 40 minutes.

While the soup cooks, arrange the sliced baguette on a cookie sheet and turn the oven onto broil. Lightly toast one side of the baguettes, watching carefully…do not burn! Remove the baguette slices from the oven, turn them over and sprinkle each one with some of the Parmesan cheese, dividing evenly. Return the pan to the broiler and toast until golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside. Chop the fennel fronds and set aside.

When the vegetables in the soup are tender, remove it from the heat and blend it in the pot until it is very smooth using an immersion stick blender, or you can blend in a traditional blender in batches and return the soup to the pot. It’s hot, so be careful. Put the soup back on the stove on low heat, add the 1 cup of cream, 1 to 1 1/2 (to taste depending on how salty your broth was) additional teaspoons of salt and the black pepper, and stir until smooth. Heat until just heated through. Ladle the soup into bowls and top each with a crouton and a sprinkle of fennel fronds. Serve remaining croutons on the side. As stated previously, this soup is good served hot or cold and on rainy days or sunny days.

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32 thoughts on “Rain Chaser: Potato, Leek and Fennel Soup

  1. This would be just the perfect soup for a cold rainy.. er snowy day for us! I love that you were inspired by a gratin to make this.. even including the parmesan flavors in a crouton is brilliant! I hope you get less rain and we get less snow!! Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful 2014, Betsy!!

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  2. This is definitely a soup for that kind of weather we’ve been having… We marveled on Saturday how it could be in the 50’s..and that I had my windows open to freshen the house, when just a couple of days before it was below zero!! There is no figuring out mother nature and her weatherly ways..

    We are definitely a soup family, and I am printing this recipe as I’m typing this. I know that my family will love it! 🙂

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  3. I honestly haven’t thought to put fennel into a soup before, and I have no idea why because I LOVE the stuff. I’m sure it paired perfectly with the potato and leek. It’s really so inviting. Hope it’s warmed up where you are, it is here which is making all the ice and snow melt into a mess. Perfect soup weather for sure.

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    • I don’t know many other soups that I might try with fennel, but it is really delicious in this one and well balanced, doesn’t overpower anything. It’s considerably warmer here and raining again, just as predicted. Soupy weather indeed!

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  4. This is perfect timing. A friend just sent me a text asking me what to do with leeks as she had never cooked with them. I randomly went through some ideas, however, when I saw this, I just know she will love it!! and me as well! I love the presentation with the small toast on top too!

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    • How cool is that? I hope she likes it. The anise flavor of the fennel is subtle to me, but then I like fennel…which is funny because I hated that flavor as a kid and adore it now! You must have the toast on top with the parmesan, otherwise it won’t mimic my gratin recipe. 😉 Thanks, Linda!

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  5. I’m definitely in need of less rain (and more sun) here in the south. After Saturday’s tornado warning and more rain, sun is in order! I’ve not a potato soup yet this winter and so I’m inspired to try yours. I love the addition of leeks (under-used in my opinion) and fennel. I’ll make it next week with lots of parmagiano-reggiano cheese!

    Thank you for sharing!
    Allison

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  6. This is perfection. Looks so positively creamy and the fennel is such a great addition to a traditional leek and potato soup. Can’t wait to try it…but I must wait a day or two or so…it’s 84 degrees F. here today and it’s supposed to do a 180 also in a couple of days.

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    • Thank you Geni! True, hot soup isn’t what you want to make or eat usually when it’s 84 degrees. However in the case of this particular soup, it’s as good cold…like a vichyssoise…as it is hot. This weather is wacky, isn’t it? Who ever heard of a polar vortex before last week!

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  7. I adore leek and potato soup – I never had it with fennel though. Why not though, right? I would think it makes for a great combination. Will have to remember that next time. My parents-in-law abhor blended soups, so I’ll have to wait until we move out though, lol!

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  8. Pingback: Crema di finocchi all’anice | La Caccavella

  9. Pingback: Soups, Stews, Chilis and Chowders: Part One, The Puréed. | bits and breadcrumbs

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