Because sometimes, nothing beats a potato
Before you go getting the wrong idea, I just want to clarify something. Yes, I'm the girl who knows how to slow roast a pork shoulder, who swirls coconut cream artfully across the top of a bowl of homemade soup, and who makes almost everything from scratch (ugh, I know, sometimes I wanna punch me, too), but I'm also the girl who never has anything in the fridge, can call a tin of tuna and can of Pinot Noir dinner, and forgets that tequila, chips and guac do not a three course meal make.
It's all about checks and balances. I've certainly lived years of making sure the fridge was stocked and preparing three square meals a day (somehow I managed to be a child of the 80's and a 1950's housewife all rolled into one), but these days, breakfast is the only guarantee – the rest of the day I make no promises to myself. Sometimes I'm a put-together 33 year old who eats like she lives in the pages of a glossy food magazine, and sometimes I'm a college student who calls coffee and seven almonds, lunch. (Ok, so in college I probably would have skipped the almonds and opted for a packet of wine gums instead, but you know, older, wiser, etc...)
I'm great at cooking for others, when company's coming and when inspiration strikes – I'm just not so great at the moments in between. I forget that treating myself to what I am capable of is as important as sharing it with others. (I feel, perhaps, that there is a greater life lesson to be learned here, but I'm running on two scoops of almond butter and black coffee, after having shed a probable 40% of my water weight in a hot yoga class, so I'm not thinking bigger than my pruned self can handle right now.)
In an effort to do my mind and body a solid, I will occasionally make a big batch of something to have in the fridge, so that in those moments of irresponsible, non-adulting, I have satisfying and healthy nourishment at arms-reach. And once that batch is made, I can spend a full week eating it. Fortunately, if something's good and I'm into it, I'm slow to bore.
Between Halloween, a couple of late nights that led to late mornings, and work, this past week was a bit of a struggle. And when I struggle, all I can think of, is soup. From butternutty, to brothy, to roasted and tomatoey, a big pot of something steaming, soulful and savory is just about the only thing I want or want to make. For me, comfort is bowl-shaped and served with a spoon, and my state of mind is, more often than not, evidenced by the contents of my dish rack.
Having already gone down the butternut squash route last week, I shifted my focus to another classic: Leek and potato.. I've always loved this combination - it's simple, hearty and totally satisfying. Unfortunately, it's often laced with heavy cream or half and half, and delicious as that may be, it just doesn't sit right with me.
So I decided to skip the dairy and amp up the flavor by adding sweet potatoes instead. The soup is not overwhelmingly sweet, as the russets balance it out, but if has a depth of flavor that is needed in the absence of white gold.
Coarsely chop your cleaned leeks. Make sure all the grit and sand is rinsed out - these guys are deceptively dirty!
Add your bacon to a large, non-stick pot, over low-medium heat and render the fat until the bacon is cooked but not crispy.
Add the butter or oil to the pot and then add the leeks and sauté, moving them around occasionally so they don't burn, for about 10 minutes until soft. Add the minced garlic and cook for a further minute.
Add both the russet and the sweet potatoes and move them around the pot, to coat them with oil.
Finally, add in your vegetable stock, increase the temperature to achieve a firm, steady simmer, and cook the potatoes until soft - about 20 minutes.
Remove and discard the bacon, and working in batches or with an immersion blender, blend the soup to your desired texture. I like to leave a few little bits and pieces whole, but if you like it smooth - make it smooth! Season the soup with a healthy dose of salt and pepper.
To top it off, you can add a little sour cream, crème fraîche, or (in my case) goat's milk yogurt, some crumbled bacon and chopped chives.
I can't say that it cured me of a stressful week or one (very mild) hangover (awful but effective blue Powerade and 3 Advil did that), but it certainly gave me great comfort and the feeling that I was taking care of myself properly. Well, ish.
Now where's a pack of wine gums when you need 'em?
*If you want to stay vegetarian, simply skip this, and add about a tablespoon more of butter or coconut oil.
**It took six cups for me - but depending on the size of your potatoes it may take a little more. You want them completely covered with stock when boiling. And you want there to be enough liquid in the pot to achieve soup and not potato purée. Any time I make soup, I like to have an extra carton or batch of stock on hand, just in case.