Wednesday, February 27, 2008

More than the sum

You all know I love evening crew practice. (Mostly.) It's the most sane thing in the world, somehow: cool air, black water, the thunk-THUNK of oars feathering and squaring, the rush of bubbles under the hull of the boat. But sometimes, I'll admit, the best part of practice is coming home from practice.

Last night I started to make Julia Child's Potage Parmentier (potato-leek soup), but ran out of time before a date with Persepolis at the Parkway, and ended up shoving the whole pot into the fridge for finishing today. After practice tonight, I pulled it back out and put it on to simmer while I ran through the shower.

Now, Potage Parmentier comes to me from Julia via Julie and Julia, my personal favorite snarky food memoir. Here's what Julie (in my mind, she's just Julie now, as Julia was just Julia to her) has to say about it:

"Once the leeks and potatoes have simmered for an hour or so, you mash them up with a fork or a food mill or a potato ricer. All of these options are far more of a pain in the neck than the Cuisinart...but Julia Child allows as how a Cuisinart will turn soup into 'something un-French and monotonous.' Any suggestion that uses the construction 'un-French' is up for debate, but if you make Potage Parmentier, you will see her point. If you use the ricer, the soup will have bits--green bits and white bits and yellow bits--instead of being utterly smooth. After you've mushed it up, just stir in a couple of hefty chunks of butter, and you're done. JC says sprinkle with parsley but you don't have to. It looks pretty enough as it is, and it smells glorious, which is funny when you think about it. There's not a thing in it but leeks, potatoes, butter, water, pepper, and salt."

My thoughts exactly. I don't understand exactly how boiling potatoes and leeks to death makes them look, smell, and taste so fantastic, but it does. I thought maybe the butter was to blame, since it's, uh, butter, but the truth is that the whole thing smells pretty amazing even before the butter goes in. Apparently I've been underestimating the flavor concentration of two major vegetables. I'm sorry, leeks and potatoes. I should never have doubted you.

And so after an hour of sprints up and down the center of the lake, of wrestling a seventy-foot boat down a bi-level dock and back up again, of dodging seven-seat's backsplash, of my not-quite-not-sick lungs rattling like a consumptive's, I was nothing but pleased to come home to a little bit of slightly green, slightly chunky, very leek-y and very potato-y soup. There's not much better.


ramarks said...

So - are you going to share the recipe for Julia Child's Potage Parmentier?

Liz said...

Sure! Since you're so into soup yourself... :)

3-4 cups of diced peeled potatoes (1 lb.)
3 cups thinly sliced leeks, including the tender greens
2 quarts water
1 Tablespoon salt
6 tablespoons heavy cream or 3 tablespoons softened butter
3 tablespoons minced chives or parsley

Simmer vegetables, salt, and water together, partially covered for 40-50 minutes in a 3-4 quart saucepan. Mash the vegetables into the soup with a fork or pass through a food mill. Julia does not like the texture of soup pureed in a blender, your call. Adjust salt and pepper. You can stop at this point. When ready to serve, bring soup back to simmering. Then off the heat, stir in the cream or butter and top with chopped chives or parsley. It does not get much better than that! Makes 2 quarts of soup for 6-8 servings.

Enjoy! It's super-delicious.

Xerxes said...

So with all this crewing practrice, do you ever compete?

Liz said...

Occasionally, when we're organized enough to get ourselves and our boats all in one place for race day. I think our next race is in June on our very own lake (which is why we don't have any excuse!). Who knows? Maybe it'll kick off a wave of summer racing for us this year.