On a chilly fall day, the idea of spending a good amount of time in the kitchen preparing a roast or a slow-cooking batch of stew sounds like a wonderful one. The reality is that we don’t always have the time to devote to a project like that – especially when that chilly fall day comes on a weekday when there is a long to-do list to contend with. The solution is a quick cooking soup that is hearty enough to be very satisfying, but takes very little time to prepare, served up with a fresh loaf of homemade bread (and yes, as a baker I find that I do have time to bake some bread even when I don’t have time for the cooking) or a freshly baked loaf from your favorite bakery.
This particular soup is one of my very favorite quick fix soups. The recipe comes from Jacques Pepin, and ever since I saw him make it on an episode of his cooking show, More Fast Food My Way, I have been making it on a regular basis: Leek and Mushroom Soup. Leeks and mushrooms are both chopped up and used for the base of the soup, along with chicken stock, giving it a nice texture and giving it a surprisingly full flavor for such a simple recipe. The Leek and Mushroom Soup is a lot like leek and potato soup, because Pepin uses instant potatoes (which are really just dehydrated potatoes, nothing unusual) to thicken the soup instead of loading it up with cream. The potato trick may sound strange – especially if you don’t typically use instant potatoes at home! – but it really works, and the soup turns out to be satisfyingly creamy, with a great potato and leek flavor, while still being very healthy.
I serve this with chopped green onions or chives and sometimes add a bit of sour cream or yogurt to the bowl for some extra richness. Jacques says that he will sometimes stir a bit of cream or milk into the soup for a thinner consistency if he wants something a bit lighter. Crusty bread is my first choice as a match for this soup, but buttery dinner rolls or even biscuits still complete the meal admirably.
Creamy Leek and Mushroom Soup
(adapted from Jacques Pepin)
You can use any kind of mushrooms in this recipe. All will give it a different, but still excellent, flavor, whether you use white mushrooms from the market or wild mushrooms.
1 tbsp olive oil
2 1/2 – 3 cups leeks, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups mushrooms, coarsely chopped
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup instant potato flakes
1 cup milk (optional)
salt and pepper, to taste
Heat a large sauecpan over medium heat. Add olive oil, leeks and mushrooms and stir. Cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes to sweat the leeks, just until they start to become tender.
Add in chicken stock, cover and bring to a boil.
When soup boils, remove the lid and stir in instant potatoes. Return soup to a boil and cook for one minute. If you prefer a thinner soup, you can add up to 1 cup milk (or chicken stock) to thin it.
Season to taste and serve.