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10 January 2011

I made some... er, dunno really what, so let's call it "Drunken Vichyssoise" and we're good. Because it was. Actually, it was awesome. GYOFB rambling + recipe below the fold[More:]

I started with this beastly, aggravating hacky cough that I've had for over a week now. One which ruins sleep and leads to general Malaise and Discontent.

Next I mixed in a snowy, lazy Sunday morning in which I groggily Cleaned All The Things amidst a haze of pseudoephidrine and GRAR at current events, and puzzled over what to do with some slightly withered-looking but still viable leeks that I'd rescued from exile in the veggie drawer.

Added to which, the mister recently lost his everloving mind, went on a rampage in which he freesold all our cheap, battered, mismatched and shittily-nonstick cookware and spent somewhere north of five bills for a huge matched set of spiffy new stainless steel gear, which I've been eager to put to use.

The below process resulted in some truly Magnificent Comfort Food. Caveat: I'm usually not all that impressed by my own culinary experiments. Bonus: while my original recipe is vegetarian, it could very easily be converted to a chicken soup base or used in what could quite possibly be the Best. Clam. Chowder. Evah.

3 fat leeks, split, cleaned, sliced thinly. I include a goodly bit of the greens; whatever's not shrivelly or tough, cos that's what tastes good IMO.
4 medium sized russet potatoes, peeled, quartered, then sliced thinnish. Think food processor.
1 large onion, quartered & sliced thin; ditto. I've been using "Maya Sweets" from Costco cos that's what I've got; plain old yellow will do.
1 package low sodium vegetable broth; you know, the square quart(?) size pack you find in the grocery.
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter. Seriously, don't fuck around with this, it's important. If you thought since this is a vegetarian recipe that it would be "healthy" or "lowfat", I'd back away slowly.
2 cups cold water
1/4 cup white flour.
2 oz Scotch (or similar) whiskey. I have Balvenie Doublewood on hand, but run what you brung. bourbon could work. I was out of sherry, so sue me.
1 heaping handful of dried parsely flakes
1 tsp dry rosemary
1 tsp dry thyme leaves
1 tsp rubbed dry sage (I didn't have that old folk tune running thru my head, why do you ask)
1 tsp sea salt, more or less to taste
a BUNCH of freshly, finely ground black pepper... maybe 1 tsp? more? sorry, I don't have a better metric but I kinda went haywire here. my pepper mill is set fine, cos coarse ground black pepper icks me out, like biting into little pieces of dirt but ymmv.

I assume you'll have all your veggies prepped and ready to go, right? Right. So now put a medium sized skillet on medium to slightly higher heat and get it good and hot. forget all that crap about "don't burn the butter" it's gonna turn brown so screw 'em. Once the pan's good and hot, whack half (4 tbsp) of the butter in there. Oh and don't forget to turn on the vent hood before the fire dept shows up and/or your roommates complain. Now drop in the flour and whisk it around steadily until it stops bubbling, thins out and turns a nice caramel brown. Oh yeah, now you're making roux baby! Once it's caramel brown and has that lovely nutty fragrance, reduce heat to medium-low. Now slowly add COLD water and thicken your roux into a nice pasty mass; it should roughly double in volume. I was going by feel here, not measuring, so you want something the consistency of thick gravy, and 2 cups of water is likely too much; go by feel. After it thickens, set it aside. You could use white wine or stock to thicken it too, I just didn't have any.
Now turn your burner back up to medium-medium-high. Get yourself a biggish stockpot thingy, at least 4 quarts and heat that sucker up. Drop in the remaining half stick of butter in and get it nice and sizzly. Now dump in the leeks and stir them madly around, don't worry about brown bits and anything sticking. You want that. Maillard reaction, FTW! Now toss in the onions and do the same. Let them go for a good 5-7 minutes until the edges are starting to caramelize and they're nice and soft. Now drop in your whisky and deglaze the pot (meaning: scrape off all the sticky bits you slackers!) Now add your herbs, salt and pepper and let them integrate and get all fragrant too. Now add the stock and the potatoes, and let it come to a nice rolling simmer, maybe 10 minutes, and simmer, stirring gently until the potatoes turn translucent and soften. Now turn the heat back down a bit, grab your whisk and dump in the roux. Yeah, I know, it'll go all lumpy and eeky-looking at first, just don't panic and keep on whisking. In a minute or two it'll all smooth out and integrate and you'll have this delicious, thick, gorgeously hearty leek-and-potato soup with a lovely smokey whiskey overtone and tons of backbone.

Note: I do have an immersion blender, but this was so tasty and texture-iffic that we ate it chunky style. The mister doesn't much care for "cream soup" style things anyhow. Puree or not, your choice.

Serve with crusty chunks of hearty artisan bread and maybe some cheese and olives on the side; I used a rosemary olive oil loaf but any baguette would do. You could also garnish with fresh parsely/chives if you've got 'em and want to pretty it up.
oh and as I grew up with a parent who was comprehensively incapable of concentrating on any given cookery task long enough not to precipitate disasters, I'll toss out a general disclaimer: for values of "browning" above, you prolly want to pay enough attention to your process so that the lovely brown of Maillard + carmelisation doesn't devolve into the scary black + carboniferous odour of overdoing it.

if you're making roux and/or carmelising onions, it's generally best to concentrate on just that, and nothing more. Results not guaranteed if you're forced to answer email, the door, the phone, or redirect an adventuresome toddler in the midst of it all.
posted by lonefrontranger 10 January | 16:16
Results not guaranteed if you're forced to answer email, the door, the phone, or redirect an adventuresome toddler in the midst of it all.

I have not made this exact recipe, but this is quoted for truth. Mind the stove, people.
posted by jeoc 10 January | 18:26
The whole point of cooking drunk is so you can go "Oh crap I need to deglaze that ...OH WAIT" and throw a splash in from the cup in your hand. you feel like the smartest monkey in the tree.
posted by The Whelk 10 January | 19:31
Dearest Whelk,

What makes you think that wasnt part of the process? Did you not see the bit where I've been hopped up on cough remedies for the past week? ;)

Me own dear old dad is a great proponent of hot toddies for what ails ya! And as far as feeling like the smartest monkey in the tree, I was all like OMG FRENCH-IRISH-SCOTTISH FUSION COOKERY OMG I AM BRILLIANT as I was digging out the Balvenie, well I can tell you.
posted by lonefrontranger 10 January | 20:27
If you will come to my house and cook, I will get you drunk.
posted by theora55 10 January | 20:48
I assumed it was so, I was applauding you.
posted by The Whelk 11 January | 00:01
theora: deal. I'll go see if I can kidnap The Whelk, in case you were referring to him, or else the plural "you" :)
posted by lonefrontranger 11 January | 09:58
Television show that you wish had ended (at least) one season sooner? || Television show that was totally awful and