For the past several years we have made an end of summer sojourn to Northern Wisconsin. This post Labor Day trip is spent in a cabin on a lake, filling our days with fishing, hiking, exploring and catching up on our reading list. We return refreshed and prepared for the tasks of putting the gardens to bed and keeping the falling leaves at bay. It is always sad to say goodbye to summer but the crisp air and promise of an explosion of color help ease the pain. I would be a happy girl if this season of transition would last forever, but alas, its visit is always fleeting leaving us to face the brutal winter. With this in mind I try to seize the day and enjoy all the awesomeness of autumn.
With the turning of the leaves comes the always colorful and exciting season of harvest. Although not recognized as one of the primaries, it is a time of year when farm markets, orchards and pumpkin fields burst forth with all the fruits, vegetables and grains that are ripe and ready for our enjoyment. The colors are an artist’s dream, but it is the flavors and aromas that excite us in the culinary world.
Since my cooking class schedule began just a few days after my return from the North, I have not had much time in my kitchen this week. Yesterday, however, was a lazy Saturday so I resurrected all the chicken carcasses from the ever growing bone graveyard in my freezer and made a huge pot of chicken stock. I cannot adequately express the delicious smells that permeated my house as it sat in slow simmer on my stove. This chilly weather activity is so satisfying and having a cache lurking in my freezer fills me with promise of delicious dishes to come.
Today I am also enjoying the wonderful aromas of cooking as I transform yesterdays efforts into a labor of love. By the end of the afternoon I will have made enough Potato Leek Soup to provide dinner for us and some close friends who have been experiencing hardships and challenges lately. This link is to a post I wrote as a tribute to Julia Child featuring her soup recipe (pictures and all) but I want to share one I developed and am making today. It has been a family favorite for many years.
Here is how it goes down.
Potato Leek Soup Makes 6 servings
Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis
5 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced
3-4 leeks, washed well and chopped
4-5 cups rich chicken stock or enough to keep it all covered*
1 ½ c milk or cream
½ t caraway seeds
1 T dill weed
1 t sea salt
fresh ground pepper
2-3 T sour cream
Garnish: chopped chives, parsley, dill, crumbled bacon, cheddar cheese or let your imagination run wild.
Peel potatoes and cut into medium dice. Wash leeks thoroughly and chop well discarding tough greens ends. Cook these vegetables in the stock about 1 hour until they are very tender. Add the milk, caraway seeds, dill and salt and pepper to taste. Let soup slow simmer for another ½ hour or until potatoes begin to fall apart and soup begins to thicken. Do not boil. Take off the heat and puree with an immersion blender or in small batches in a regular blender or food processor.** Return to burner and stir in a few tablespoons of sour cream and a tablespoon or two of butter. Heat through on low heat and serve with desired garnish.
Mine and Julia’s recipes are similar and both provide a satisfying result, but I think the one I developed may be a bit easier. Regardless of which recipe you follow, make sure you are wearing your pearls for optimum outcome. Julia never appeared without hers and we know how that story goes. Also, staying true to Julia’s style don’t skip the butter as it adds a richness that elevates the humble tuber to company worthy.
Autumn, especially in poetry, has often been associated with melancholia. The possibilities of summer are gone and the chill of winter is on the horizon, but I would urge us all to think of it as a time of celebration. Celebration of nature, its gift of color and rich harvest. Seize the season! John Keats, an English poet, in his poem, To Autumn, describes it as a time of bounteous fecundity, a time of ‘mellow fruitfulness’. Fecundity? Who talks that way? BTW, if you don’t know, it means, prolific or very productive.
That said, I wish all of you a long and beautiful fall. Fill you homes with the fragrance of the harvest and keep spreading the love, one awesome dish at a time. Until next time, may you enjoy the joys of the season. Sending love from my kitchen to yours. Jeanne