I come from a long line of soup eaters and I've done my best to honor my heritage by eating soup as often as possible. I provide as evidence the soup category I have on this blog (scroll down on the left), it's the 2nd largest file...desserts being the first. I'm so proud. We eat a lot of soup and this is a favorite of ours, and not just during Irish week, but all through the fall/winter and always after Easter...it's a great way to use up leftover Easter ham. The mister and I have already met our yearly corned beef and cabbage quota so this is what we'll be dining on come St. Paddy's Day - I'm told it's a sure-fire way to lure Leprechauns to our door!
You know you have to wash the leeks, not just rinse them, right? Dirt can collect waaaaaay down inside the leek so slice it, put in a colander and put the colander into a bowl of cold water so the leeks are floating. Swish it around a few times, pull up the colander and be amazed at all the little bits of dirt in the bottom of the bowl!
Not to worry, if you are still one of the only people on the planet without a hand-held "immersion" blender, also called a stick or wand blender, you can use the old-fashioned kind of blender to puree this soup until it is totally creamy and smooth. (If you do use a regular blender, make sure to add soup in small batches. Hot liquids tend to blow the lid off when poured into a blender so never fill more than half full...it's all very scientific, you know, when you heat a gas it expands and when you put hot soup into a blender and put the lid on - well, stand clear because thar she'll blow! Make sure you put the lid on and hold it down or you'll be cleaning soup up off your walls, floors, ceiling...been there/done that!
We like to have chunks of potato in our soup so I only cook half of the potatoes with the leeks and onion and then I blend them, which makes the creamy base for this soup. Then I add the remaining potatoes and cook until they're done. It's a bit more time consuming, so if you're in a hurry and don't want to mess with another step, just cook all the potatoes at the same time and be done with it.
After the soup is blended, the ham is added. Something about blended ham that just doesn't appeal to me! Stir the ham in and let it heat through...then you're ready to serve! This makes a good size pot of soup, enough to serve 6 people and 8 Leprechauns. C'mon, make this soup and get your Irish on, even persnickety eaters like the mister loves this soup - it's basic - but in the best tasting way possible.
Irish Potato, Leek and Ham Soup - Pots and Pins
1 large leek
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup white onion, chopped
6 cups chicken stock
3 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch pieces, peels left on (divide potatoes in half if you don't want to blend them all)
2 cups ham, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 cups milk
Garnish: Tabasco sauce, optional, but a few drops are awesome, in my humble opinion
fresh chives, minced, optional
Split leek in half lengthwise and cut each half into 1/4-inch pieces. Clean leek by putting all the pieces into a colander and then immersing the colander/pieces in a bowl filled with cold water. Remove from water and drain in the colander.
Heat oil and butter in a large heavy pot. Add leek and onion, cover and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, until soft and slightly browned. Add stock and half of the potatoes. (If you don't care about having pieces of potato in your soup, add all the potatoes now.) Add salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender. Using an immersion blended, blend the soup until it is smooth and creamy. If you don't have an immersion blender pour soup into regular blender 2 cups at a time to blend.
Stir in milk, mixing until smooth, then add remaining potatoes and ham and cook, over medium-low heat for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender. Serve hot. Serves 6. Garnish with fresh chives and/or Tabasco Sauce.