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hot diggity

Recipe: potato leek soup

My friend sent me the coolest package in the mail the other day. We both shoot Nikon and since he got one for himself, he decided to get one for me too. It was so generous of him, but I think it might be hard to distinguish between the 24-70mm 2.8 Nikkor that he sent me and the one that I already own.


practically identical



It’s disconcerting how similar they are, because one is a lens and the other is…

a mug



But I love it, because I’m a Nikon fangirl and ’tis the season for hot drinks. I only drink hot beverages from December to March because it’s too warm for me the rest of the year. I have nothing against hot beverages. They are especially appropriate after a day spent outside in the snow.

like a day at vail

the view west from one of the back bowls



When we get home from the slopes or the backcountry, the first thing we do after greeting Kaweah and putting away our gear is heat up some soup. We have four different kinds of soup in our refrigerator right now. It’s the best kind of food to warm you up and rehydrate your body. One of my favorites is potato leek soup.

leeks, potatoes, parsley, salt, pepper, and butter

slice the leeks in half



Don’t laugh, but the first time I ever had potato leek soup was when we went backpacking. Trader Joe’s had these instant potato leek soup mixes which were great to take on our trips. It wasn’t until graduate school in Ithaca, New York that I attempted to make potato leek soup from scratch. It was unbelievably easy and thus became a staple for us. And then I proceeded to forget about it for several years.

dicing potatoes

the main ingredients: potatoes and leeks



I suppose the colder climates inspire me to make more soups and stews. Owning a beautiful pressure cooker doesn’t hurt either. It makes making slow-cooked foods an absolute joy. The only gripe I have about this soup is the washing of the leeks. Does anyone have a good method for washing leeks? Because the silt manages to really get in between the layers.

sauté the leeks

add broth



You can use vegetable broth, chicken broth, water… I prefer a combination of water and chicken broth for my soup. After simmering the soup until the potatoes are soft, you can purée all of it or some of it. It really depends on what you prefer: smooth or chunky. If the puréed soup is too thick, just add more liquid. It’s so flexible, but quick and simple. A hot bowl of soup is a perfect way to warm your belly.

into the blender

soup is great food



Potato Leek Soup
[print recipe]

2 tbsps (1 oz.) butter or vegetable oil
4 leeks, trimmed of the roots and dark green parts, split, washed, and diced
salt to taste
pepper to taste
2 lbs. yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
2 tbsps fresh parsley, minced

Heat the oil or butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté until they wilt. This takes about 6 minutes or so. Season the leeks with salt and pepper to your liking. Add the potatoes, broth, and water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer until the potatoes are fork-tender. When the potatoes are soft, use an immersion blender or a regular blender to purée the soup. You can leave chunks if you like by blendering only half of the soup. It’s a matter of preference. Stir in the parsley and serve hot. [Note: if you like thick soup, use less liquid - if you like soupy soup, use more.] 6-8 servings.

36 nibbles at “hot diggity”

  1. Julie says:

    I’m a Nikon fan too. That is a cool mug. I was wondering if I brought a mug like that to class would it get stolen if i left it on the caneen table when i get my lunch. I nice lens would be tempting for someone to ‘borrow’. They would get a shock when they went to use it. lol I wonder if I can buy one of those in Ireland.

    Soups are the best. It always surprises me how many people don’t know how to make soup but once you know the basics it’s so easy to adapt each dish to your liking. Thanks for this version of potato and leek.

  2. kathy says:

    I love potato leek soup. My Father use to make it when he was alive. I think I need to make it in his honor.

    Love that lens mug. It will cause a few laughs if you drink from it in front of a group. :)

  3. Kelly K. says:

    Ha, I was going to say that that was an awfully nice present!! (It’s still a nice present, just not as shockingly nice as a new lens would be)

    I’ve worked for various photographers using Canon & Nikon equipment, and am not in the process of trying to decide which to buy for myself. In my heart I’m a Nikon girl, but my purse strings are leaning towards Canon… decisions, decisions.

    I’ve been on a huge soup kick lately, and will definitely put this one on the list to try!

  4. Kristin says:

    We loooooooove leek & potato soup. The mug is awesome. I’m tempted to get one for my photography buff uncle who is never found with out a coffee mug, tho he uses a Canon for his shooting.

  5. Laurel says:

    Ha! I was thinking, “Most generous friend EVER!” That is still pretty cool, though.

    Deborah Madison says to clean leeks by slicing them in half (as you did to start) then run water over and through the layers while sort of riffling them. I, a total nobody in the food world, don’t find most of my leeks to have much silt these days, and/or it’s mostly contained in the outer one or two layers, so I just dispose of those as necessary. Just to make sure, though, I typically rinse my leeks after chopping, in a strainer. (Usually I only slice up the half-rounds thinly, bypassing the true chopping.) If a leek looks really bad, I slice it up and put it in a large bowl, then fill the bowl with water and let sit; then rinse and drain once or more. But that’s almost never necessary.

    I love leeks. Speaking of the Madison, she has a lovely recipe for whole leeks, steamed (in wine and butter, I think) with a delicious caper/creme fraiche (or sour cream) vinaigrette ladled over before serving.

  6. Clermont says:

    That soup looks delicious- so does the snow at Vail. I’m jealous.

    You may have already tried this method, but I always wash leeks by chopping them up and then putting them in a big bowl full of water. Swish them around a little bit and the silt will sink to the bottom. Then just scoop the leaves off the top and leave the silty water behind.

  7. Kirsa says:

    I really tought that your friend had LOTS of money… until the stainless steel interior showed itself… heh.

    The soup looks quite delicious. you’re absolutely right to use water in addition to the chicken broth, it cuts the costs down, and you won’t be able to taste it.

    The beautiful thing with soup, is that once you master it’s base, you can throw in wathever ingredients you want, blend, and have something delicious made in a whim. The last soup I made was Apple-mushrooms (one of my many try-and-learn temptatives), but I scalded myself so badly with burning soup while doing it that I’m kinda hesitant to make another now (I know it’s psychological)

    Talking of blending, I noticed you used a regular mixer to puree the soup. I’m quite surprised that you don’t own an immersion blender. Seriously, this is one of my most used tool in my kitchen. It saves a lot of time, saves on washing dishes, and I think it’s safer (less risk to spill soup everywhere). You really should get yourself one.

  8. Janet says:

    Hey, Jen
    I live on soup in the winter, and potato leek is one of my favorites. I use the recipe from Julia Child and it is incredibly simple and simply delicious. Also a great base for other vegetables, pureed or not, added in. I like that it’s “creamy” without the cream.
    As for cleaning leeks, I go ahead and chop them before washing, and then put them in my salad spinner. I immerse the leeks in water, then pull out the insert, letting the water and grit go with it, and spin as dry as I need them to be. Works like a charm.

  9. Nic says:

    Mmmm – my fav soup.

    For cleaning leaks – similar to what Laurel said… but I cut in quarters. and leave all connected. 2 cuts from right above root base all the way through “top ends” … resulting in a leek “brush.” hold in one hand and rinse/twirl under cold running water… The extra cut (beyond halving) really helps grit flow out with water, and keeping all intact makes easier to handle during rinse… and then of course chopping proceeds and on to yum soup!

    Thanks for the reminder of a great staple.

  10. Livia says:

    re: cleaning leeks
    I’ll rinse off the obvious dirt with the fan method. But mostly, I just get a big bowl, fill it with water, put all the rinsed and sliced leeks into it, and then I rub all the leeks around between my hands. Then let the leeks sit a bit so any sediment can settle to the bottom. Scoop the leeks into a salad spinner and dry. I’ve never found that too onerous.

  11. barbara says:

    I love soup. Leek and potato is one I make often. I wash my leeks under running water.

  12. Anna says:

    Livia, that salad spinner idea is great! Would never have thought of that. It must also help get rid of the last bits of grit. Thanks!

  13. Amy says:

    I went to Vail for the first time ever last month and skied the Back Bowls! What a day! I will never forget it. Did get a bit woozy when we got up to that cabin for a drink of water– but after a few glasses and a bathroom break, I felt better.

  14. g. says:

    with an irish husband, this is one of our staples! happy new year to you — from one nikon gal to another!!

  15. So Very Domestic says:

    Mmm. This is one of the first soups I learned to make and still love it. The Nikon mug is so rad!

  16. Nan says:

    I first started reading I was soooooo jealous (I’m ashamed to admit). I thought “… wish I had a great friend like Jen’s.” But I soon settled down. Wow that mug looks real!

    I’m still jealous of the soup though. I’m under the weather and soup sounds so good. It warms from the inside out. And this batch looks particularly good – creamy, leek-y goodness.mmmmm

  17. Linda says:

    This post was perfect for me in so many ways:

    The mug was hysterical. I wonder if there is a Cannon version. I’m a Nikkon girl myself, but my daughter is a pro & she shoots Cannon. I’d love to get one for her.

    As someone else mentioned above…get yourself an immersion blender!! I like my Cuisinart. I don’t mind the cord, either…one less thing to charge. Easy to wash.

    Vail…I’m always so jealous of your ski photos. I’m a teacher & just got word that school is closed today for 1-3 inches! I’m off to my totally groomed, man-made snow slopes.

    And finally…Potato Leek Soup! It is a staple in my house, & your recipe is practically the same. I always have homemade soup in the house in the cold months. My daughter is expecting in March, and I’ve been compiling a list of meals to make for her & this post reminded me of sending her potato leek soup when she was sick in college and called home for it. On the list! Thanks.

  18. Kath says:

    I don’t know why I’ve never made Potato Leek Soup. Your beautiful photos make me want to give it a try soon!

  19. Krissy says:

    I bought one for my brother this Christmas. He shoots both Nikon and Canon, but as the boyfriend got a Canon, er, “lens”, I thought it best to give the brother something different. It even zooms!

  20. Mary says:

    Do you make your own broth?

  21. Margie says:

    Leek soup AND a Nikon…mug. You are ready for action!

    Learned much from Nic and Laurel. Sad to say, I grew leeks these past two years, but when it was time to harvest, I was sidelined by a major project. Those poor babies wound up setting some beautiful flower(seeds), though.

  22. Jess says:

    You’re killing me with the vail photos. I used to go ski there every year! Sadly my finaces won’t allow me to go skiing anymore. I miss skiing so much it. I wish I had cheaper hobbies. (well wait I do, reading, hiking video games, …) but it’s the one I can only afford to a few times in a decade like skiing and scuba dicving and trapeze that make me a little wistful.

    I just made potato leek soup the other night. I left mine more chunky and rustic. It’s such a satisfying soup.

  23. Amy says:

    Soup looks wonderful! I always throw some carrots in mine, but I usually throw carrots in everything.

  24. Megan says:

    i LOVE potato soup, and have been wanting to try it with leeks for awhile now. thanks!

  25. kellypea says:

    Very cool mug — and the soup is a fave. I just picked up a bunch of leeks at the market yesterday, so great idea! OH MY that photo of the snowy landscape is amazing.

  26. Dianne says:

    Love the Nikon mug! You certainly had me fooled. I make potato leek soup with chicken stock as well and top it with crumbled bacon. If I am making it for vegetarian friends, I make it with a potato peel broth and forego the bacon.

  27. jenyu says:

    They definitely make both Canon and Nikon lens mugs – and not just the 24-70mm, but I see Adorama also carries the Nikon 70-200. Nifty! :) And thanks all for your leek-cleaning tips! I need to cook more with leeks, me thinks.

    Julie – the biggest indicator that something is different is the weight. the mug feels like a feather compared to the real deal.

    Kristin – they have them for Canons too :)

    Laurel – thank you, what a great method.

    Clermont – clearly a good method, since Laurel suggested it too. thanks!

    Kirsa – yeah, everyone keeps saying I should get an immersion blender. we’ll see. i’m kind of in an anti-kitchen-stuff-buying-mode right now ;)

    Janet – thanks! if I ever get a salad spinner though, it will have to be after the immersion blender ;)

    Nic – brilliant. thank you!

    Nan – awww, don’t be jealous :( hope you are feeling recovered and healthy again.

    Linda – yes! there is a canon version and you should totally get it for your daughter. she’d get a kick out of it.

    Mary – sometimes i do, sometimes i use organic chicken broth (store-bought).

    Margie – ooh, that’s cool you grew leeks!

    Jess – i’d suggest backcountry skiing, which is cheaper – sort of. the gear is steep :(

  28. Mary says:

    Thank you Miss Jennifer :)

  29. ChibiTofu » Potato Leek Soup with Avocado Ham & Cheese Sandwich says:

    [...] gift of an immersion blender for Christmas! When I saw the post from Jennifer Yu on her blog Use Real Butter for potato leek soup recently, I knew it was the perfect time to put my new gadget to work – especially since [...]

  30. Pei Lin says:

    Hey Jen, is that chicken stock in your mis en place photo there? My chicken stock is rather pale looking! Am I doing anything wrong with it??

  31. jenyu says:

    Pei Lin – that’s store-bought chicken stock which is MUCH darker than my homemade chicken stock.

  32. cooking rookie says:

    Hi, I just made your soup. It’s really yummy – such a comfort food, and so simple to make :-). Thanks for the wonderful recipe!
    p.s. And you have a beautiful blog – I’m looking for a follow button :-)

  33. Becka @ Just a Bunch of Momsense says:

    I couldn’t find my recipe for this so I had to Google it…

    I found yours and I just got finished eating it. It was delicious and very easy to make! Thanks for sharing your recipe!

    P.S. This is the only thing I make with leeks so it’s not like I use them all the time, but I’ve never heard of discarding the green part. I always just cut off the bottom inch or 2 of white (and the stem,) and use the rest. And this time I used the salad spinner to clean them after chopping. It worked fabulously! :)

  34. Hot4andrew says:

    My hubby made this for me tonight and it was delicious! he sautéed a little chopped garlic in the vegetable oil before wilting the leeks for some extra flavor, yum! Also we didn’t have any parsley so he added a little cilantro for garnish, it worked perfectly. He’s so smart and sexy Im gonna jump his bone right now!!!

  35. Liz Tsuji says:

    Hi,
    I use the method I learned on one of Jacques Pepin’s TV shows.
    Cut off the green part you are not using in this soup (and freeze and throw into your next stock pot).
    Starting just beyond the root make one long cut down the center of the leek.
    Then turn slightly and make another long cut to create the brush others have posted about. Then holding the leek by the root, rinse thoroughly while it is vertical so the silt flushes out. Pat dry and it is ready to chop.

  36. Michelle Haveman says:

    Made your recipe it was quick and awful darn tasty.
    Thank you.

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