Once upon a time, in what feels like a different life, I co-owned a boutique wine shop with a small upscale cafe, where I was the executive chef. I served everything from wine-inspired appetizers, pizzas, and soups/salads/sandiwches to 5 course $150 a head wine dinners. But, during this time, I also had two very small children. The hours were awful, the stress was great, and it was the middle of the Great Recession. As much as people loved it, they could only buy so much wine and fancy food, and so we closed in Fall 2010, and I was honestly relieved. I became a stay-at-home-parent until my return to higher education once both kids were in kindergarten.
It’s been a decade since we closed, but sometimes I still like reaching-back at some of the old recipes I used. While I may be relieved to not have that kind of stress, I’m still proud of what I managed to accomplish. It always filled me with immense satisfaction to feed people food I loved and have them love it in return. Yesterday evening we took a small trip down memory lane by opting to make some old recipes. I served a variety of sandwiches I used to serve (cut into very small portions that encouraged sampling) and serving it with a delicious soup. Here’s some of the sandwiches I used to make:
- Paris Lunchbox = brie, salami, and sliced apples toasted together on crispy baguette
- Pesto Grilled Cheese = pesto slathered generously onto a baguette and toasted together with american, smoked provolone, and English cheddar cheese
- Apple Butter Grilled Cheese = apple butter toasted with English cheddar
- Baked Brie = brie toasted together with homemade jam
- London Pub = apple butter, smoked bacon, and English cheddar toasted together on baguette
Whereas I could serve many different sandwiches, I could only reasonably pick one soup, and I had a hard time picking, because soup is something I love dearly and enjoy making. I considered making a sweet potato soup, a corn chowder, a roasted red pepper soup, or a potato soup. The old favorite brie cheese soup was discarded by me early on simply because I no longer have wholesale pricing on brie cheese. 🙂
I asked Brian for his input and he wanted either mushroom or potato soup. While I absolutely love mushroom soup, I had been craving potato soup all week and it was the one constant between both of us. However, mushrooms and corn still sounded good. I used to make a simple potato-leek soup in the French style for the restaurant, so I opted to use that as a base but do a vegetable garnish that included some mushrooms and corn to get that rich seasonal flavor. The end result was delicious. So delicious I’m going to make it again this week.
Potato Soup with Herb-Roasted Mushrooms, Potatoes, and Corn
Yield: about 8 servings
For the roasted vegetables:
1 pound portabello mushrooms, sliced
2 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 1/2 C frozen sweet yellow corn
2 T olive oil
2 T butter
1/4 C fresh lemon juice
1/2 C sherry or port
2 T snipped fresh chives
1 T fresh rosemary
2 t fresh thyme
sea salt, pepper, and white pepper to taste
For the soup:
3 Leeks, green stems discarded and sliced
5 scallions, green parts saved for another dish and sliced
6 large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
6 T butter
2 C buttermilk
1 quart plus 2 C water or vegetable broth
2 t sea salt
1 t white pepper
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
snipped chives for garnish
For the vegetables—
In the bottom of a ceramic dutch oven, heat the oil with the butter over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms, the lemon juice, the spirits, and a pinch of sea salt and pepper. Cook until alcohol has completely evaporated then brown mushrooms for 5 minutes, stirring and caramelizing. Add the potatoes and the remaining seasonings and cook another 5 minutes, making sure the potatoes get coated in the remaining fat in the pan. Add the corn and place a preheated 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, stirring at least once, until the potatoes have cooked-through and crisped slightly. Remove from the dutch oven and set aside. Taste for seasoning.
For the soup—
In the bottom of the dutch oven set back on the stovetop over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the leeks and scallions and a pinch of sea salt, place the cover on, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. You want them soft but not with a lot of color (there will be color from the bottom of the dutch oven from the vegetables, and that is good flavor, but we don’t want that flavor in our leeks).
Once leeks have fully softened, add the potatoes, the water, and the seasonings. Bring the heat back up to medium-high and bring the pot to a low boil. Place the lid on and cook for 15 minutes, until potatoes are nicely soft. With an immersion blender, puree the potatoes smooth; the soup will be quite thick at this stage. Add the buttermilk and bring to a bare simmer, just enough to heat it through. Taste for seasonings.
Place the soup in a bowl, top with the vegetables and fresh chives. You can finish with a swirl of truffle oil, if desired.