Potato Leek Soup, featuring Chicken & Bacon
Part of my goal for 2014 is to conserve my money and do better budgeting when it came to the grocery bill. It is something I foot almost by myself (we go halfsies on Costco) and with my income being next to nothing, I have to be creative and frugal, without starving us or packing out diet with sodium-laden, chemical crap. One activity I enjoy doing is scouring my cookbooks, recipes of my own, and the internet for meals to make at home; both as dinner and as snacks. Some people like to coupon. Me? I like to shop via what my stomach’s telling me. No, I’ll never get the pleasure of buying 20 of something I don’t actually need, because they’re only 20 cents each if I use 6 coupons and have the store match them. And I’ll never get to shove 100 cans of peas and 2,000 toothbrushes under the bed for “safe keeping” because my pantries are so full of other useless crap. I prefer to do my shopping one small-ish batch at a time and tailoring our dinner menu to what sounds good, not necessarily what’s on sale. Don’t get me wrong, I check for a coupon here and there to see if I can save a little, but I’ve got better things to do than figure out how to make a $20 food budget stretch. Like recipe hunting!
I like to add a lot of variety to our diet. I think we would both be happy to have the same things day in and day out – meatloaf, loaded baked potato casserole, soup, pizza, pork chops and stuffing, Asian cabbage chicken salad, etc. We really could eat the same things over and over. But variety truly is the spice of life, and it’s a great way to add new favorites to an arsenal of go-to recipes.
So this last time that I was preparing my grocery list based on recipes I found to feed us for two weeks, I stumbled across two recipes that called for leeks. I like leeks. I think they’re tasty. Truth be told, I’ve really only had them in soup form, but a leek is a leek! However, in all my years, I’ve never cooked them before. I know they’re not hard to cook at all; I just never had the need to make anything with leeks in it. Not to mention, they can get kind of expensive for such a little amount of usable vegetable and I tend to stay away from ingredients that are going to cost more than the rest of the meal combined. Unless we’re really splurging. But then I’d rather take the splurge money and buy a big beautiful piece of salmon from my local whole foods market.
The recipes I found were for soup and for a shrimp and couscous concoction. I figured buying one bundle (three leeks) would be a good way to split the cost up and make it stretch a tad further. That’s essentially what I do. I try to find meals that share common ingredients. That way when I buy a 10 or 20 pound bag of potatoes, I can have a couple nights where the potatoes are used, and aren’t rotting away on the floor in the potato corner. Luckily for me, when I finally did get to the store, they were fairly inexpensive, so it didn’t hurt my wallet to purchase them. Score!
This soup took awhile to make. There’s a bit of prepping that has to go into it. Cooking the bacon, cooking the chicken, chopping the leeks, peeling and dicing the potatoes… typical prep things, but some of them take far longer than others and you end up accruing quite a few dirty dishes. But that’s okay. This soup is so worth it. Upon finishing our bowls, The Fellow™ stated, “I could eat a bowl the size of my head of that stuff.” And I concur. It’s a great mix of flavors. It’s not overly salty, it’s far from bland, and it’s amazing to me how so few and such simple ingredients make a wowser! type meal. I think having the bacon and chicken are a perfect accompaniment, adding a bit of salt, texture, and heft to a very light soup, but the base is good enough on its own that you won’t miss the meat if you so choose to go that route.
The original recipe calls for thyme to be used. I was going to just use dry, as I’m not a huge thyme user and spending $2 for a carton of fresh when I only needed a few leaves wasn’t worth it. Well, surprise, surprise, guess who didn’t have thyme in her cupboard? Yeah. So I can only imagine what this would taste like using thyme.
Potato Leek Soup, featuring Chicken & Bacon
source: The Secret Ingredient [Chicken, Potato, and Leek Soup]
4 bacon slices, coarsely chopped
two 12-ounce chicken breast halves with skin and bone
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1.5 – 2 large leeks, white and pale green parts only, chopped (about 2 cups)
4 cups chicken stock
4 cups water
1 large baking potato, such as russet or Burbank, peeled and diced
½ cup heavy cream
salt and freshly ground coarse black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 375º. Line a rimmed baking sheet or cake pan with tin foil and arrange bacon. Cook bacon in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and prop pan up so the bacon fat will drain to one corner. Set aside.
2. In a medium skillet, add bacon fat and heat over medium. Add chicken and brown until cooked through. Remove from the skillet and set aside with the bacon.
3. In a large pot or pan, melt the unsalted butter and add leeks to saute for about 8 minutes. Some pieces will start to brown. Make sure not to burn them.
4. Add chicken stock, water, cooked chicken, and potatoes to the sauteed leeks. Add salt and pepper to taste (remember the bacon will add saltiness, so don’t over-salt the soup). Bring to a boil at medium heat, them reduce to medium-low, allowing to cook the potatoes until tender, about 20-25 minutes, uncovered.
5. Remove chicken from the pot and chop coarsely. Chop the bacon into small pieces. Set both aside.
6. Add heavy cream to the soup base and heat until piping hot, but not boiling. Remove from the heat and in small batches, puree the mixture in a blender.
7. Serve the soup with the chicken and bacon.