Recipe: Potage Parmentier


Sometimes I get stuck in a rut when I'm menu planning.  I find that if I don't make a real effort to THINK about and plan what I'm going to pull together suddenly it's a week full of the same stuff.  Pasta, pasta, pasta.  Chicken, chicken, chicken.  Booooooooring.  I sat down last week and I asked myself what some of my favourite food memories were.  Maybe I could try to replicate some of those memories in my own kitchen.  A few special events and fancy restaurants came to mind but the first thing I thought of was a bowl of homemade soup I had in a farmhouse kitchen in 1994.

My friends Jen and Emily's grandmother lived in a farmhouse in London, Ontario.  I had heard about "the farm" for years but went for my first visit with Jen in 1994.  It was a beautiful place full of English looking gardens, picture windows, antiques and books.  One day for lunch, our hostess served us a sort of ploughman's lunch...bread, cheese and this insanely delicious potato soup, that she seemed to whip up without any effort whatsoever.  Now, I've always been a fan of the potato, but until then I didn't know that it could be served in soup form (I know, duh!).  Over the years since then I've had several bowls of Potato Leek soup in restaurants but nothing has ever come close to that first bowl of thick, buttery goodness.  My effort to replicate my friends' grandmother's soup started with another formidable woman: Julia Child.

Not to get all Julie Powell on you here, the very first recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking is for Potage Parmentier - Potato and Leek (or Onion) Soup.  As Julia Child says in her notes this soup is "simplicity itself".  I decided to make it with onions instead of leeks because I don't recall that bowl of soup in London having anything obvious in it other than potatoes.  Most people go with leeks, in part I think because it seems more French or authentic or something, to which I say, "whatever".

What you'll need:

4 cups of cold water
4 cups of potatoes, peeled and diced
3 cups of onions, chopped
4-6 tablespoons of cream OR 2-3 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon salt

Yes, that's IT!  Simplicity.  Itself.

Wine pairing:

Something French!  Pick something out yourself!  I'm sick of picking your wine for you!  Why did I even ever begin to suggest that I could?  I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT WINE.  And this, right here, is how the wine pairing part of Project: cold cereal is for breakfast died.  Happy?


This is a suggestion I am confident making, right here.


1.  Peel and chop your potatoes and onions.

2.  Simmer vegetables, water and salt together, partially covered, 40 - 50 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

3.  This is the part where Julia Child tells you to take the pot off the heat and mash the vegetables together with a fork.  It's the part where I panic that I didn't saute anything, season anything or boil anything in stock.  I mashed everything together with my potato masher.  Don't use your blender, that would have made Julia sad and it will make your soup too smooth.  Resist!  Do as she says!

4.  Now, stir in your cream or butter.  I think butter has to be the better option as it provides so much more flavour.  I stirred in 3 tablespoons of Becel.  Don't tell Julia.

5.  Correct your seasoning.  You might need more salt, although I didn't.  I added fresh ground pepper.  If I had any in the house I might have added some parsley or chives, but I didn't have any on hand, and frankly I didn't miss it.

Verdict:  She's Julia Child for a reason, people.  This may be not only the easiest thing I've ever cooked but the most delicious.  It is seriously SO good.  It tasted a lot like that wonderful soup I had in 1994 too, only perhaps more onion-y.  The other cool thing about this recipe is that it is endlessly adaptable, you could add all kinds of different vegetables and herbs or serve it cold.  That said, I can't ever see getting tired of the original version.  In fact, I wish I were eating some right now.

1 comment :

  1. God, that sounds good! I can see myself adding broccoli and/or cayenne pepper to the mix. Maybe sprinkling some gruyere on top and getting some good crusty bread... *drool*


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