Potato Leek Soup, dotted with dill and pasture-raised bacon, may seem like an odd addition to a June post. I mean, really now, summer’s less than a week away – and I imagine all of you sipping away at icy tomato gazpachos and spooning sweet cherry sorbet into your mouths. It’s hot. It’s humid and the night air is sultry and warm where you are, isn’t it? Don’t lie to me now – I know it’s true. While you’re lounging by the grill, sending your kids to run naked through the sprinklers and collect raspberries on tall, leafy canes, I’m shivering and considering turning out the heat though it’s the middle of June dammitall. And the opening day of the little farmers market my husband and I manage was greeted by schizophrenic weather that oscillated violently between icy rain, warm sunshine and brief bouts of snow that turned into longer bouts of hail. It takes a certain ruggedness to live where I do and for the rest of you, I sure hope you’re enjoying that hot weather of yours – really.
So this post, you see, isn’t for you. Go enjoy your summery foods – your blackberry sorbets, your cucumber salads and your icy cold teas. This post is for those of you with cold toes, with snowy, sleety landscapes – those of you who live in the high country like me and those of you who dwell in that other place where seasons are upside down – the Southern Hemisphere.
You’ll find while potatoes and leeks comprise the base for this classic soup, it truly is the pasture-raised bacon that outshines them all with its smoky, saltiness. Bacon and bacon fat, a feature in many of the recipes at Nourished Kitchen, is unfairly treated. It’s unhealthy, right? It’ll clog your arteries, right? It’ll give you heart disease, right? Not so fast. It’s easy to demonize a food, and bacon and pork fat have shouldered an unfair burden. The problems stemming from the use of bacon don’t center on the food itself, but, as is often the case, how it’s produced. The practices of raising hogs on industrial farms is brutal, inhumane and gives rise to sick animals. Sick animals produce sick meat. Likewise, healthy animals produce healthy meats and pork, with it’s vitamin-rich fat, has played an important role in traditional, preindustrial cuisines around the world from Europe to Asia, Asia to South America. When hogs are raised properly, with access to sunshine and plenty of room to root around, their meat and fat becomes dense in wholesome nutrients – particularly vitamin D and monounsaturated fat (the same healthy fat found in avocado and olive oil). You can find good quality pasture-raised bacon from local ranches and farmers markets. So relish the bacon in this dish and its beautiful, characteristic seasoning it provides to the soup – it’s good for you.
- 4 oz pasture-raised bacon, (fried and crumbled with fat reserved)
- 4 leeks, (rinsed well with white and light green parts sliced very thinly)
- 1 lb waxy potatoes, (scrubbed well and cubed)
- 1 quart fresh chicken broth
- 2 bay leaves, (preferably fresh though dried will do)
- 2 cups fresh whole milk
- 1 bunch fresh dill, (chopped fine)
- unrefined sea salt and freshly ground white pepper, (to taste)
- crème fraîche or sour cream, (to serve)
- In a heavy-bottomed soup pot, heat reserved bacon fat over a medium flame until melted and sizzling.
- Add the thinly sliced leeks to the melted bacon fat and fry until they begin to soften and release their aroma – about five to six minutes or so.
- Add one quart fresh chicken broth to the leeks and dump in the cubed potatoes and cover the pot.
- Cook the potatoes, leeks and broth together over a medium-low flame until the potatoes are softened and tenderly fall apart when pressed with the tines of a fork – about thirty minutes.
- Remove the soup from the flame and allow it to cool slightly, then pour two cups fresh whole milk into the soup pot, stirring in the fresh dill as you go.
- Season with unrefined sea salt and white pepper as it suits you, then serve the soup with plenty of good quality pasture-raised bacon and a dollop of crème fraîche or sour cream.