Old-fashioned Leek and Potato Soup with Imperial Bread Sticks

leek-potato-soup

When it comes to cooking, March is the month I find most challenging. Many days the weather is still brisk and windy (with an occasional snow shower) – and winter foods seem most appropriate,  yet I’m tiring of them and yearn for bright and sunny spring foods.

When I searched for the perfect hundred-year-old recipe for this week, I came across a recipe for Leek and Potato Soup with Imperial Bread Sticks that excited me.

The verdict: The Leek and Potato Soup was easy to make, and delightful;  and, just right on a damp and raw March day. The traditional combination of leeks and potatoes in a rich and creamy soup base warmed me, and delicate yellow and green leek pieces floating in the soup provided just a hint of spring.

The recipe called for serving the soup with Imperial Bread Sticks. The bread sticks were made by cutting bread into sticks and toasting. It was fun to replicate how people made bread sticks a hundred years ago – though it I made this soup again, I’d probably either serve it with a warm artisan bread or buy modern bread sticks.

Here is the original recipe:

Source: American Cookery (December, 1916)

And, here is the recipe updated for modern cooks:

Leek and Potato Soup with Imperial Bread Sticks

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 45 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Leek and Potato Soup

6 leeks

6 medium potatoes

water

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 cup cream

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons butter

Clean the leeks and remove the coarse dark green tops. Cut the white and light-green portions of the leeks into thin slices. Set aside.

Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Put the diced potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Put on the stove and using high heat bring to a boil; cover and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 3 minutes, then remove from heat and drain.

Add the sliced leeks to the drained potatoes, and just barely cover with boiling water. (I heated the water in the microwave. In days gone by, it would have been heated in a tea kettle or pan on the stove.). Return to the stove, and using high heat bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cover; cook until the leeks are tender (about 15 minutes).  (DO NOT drain.) Stir in the salt, pepper, cream, parsley, and butter. Heat until the soup is hot and steamy. Remove from heat, and, if desired, serve with Imperial Bread Sticks.

Imperial Bread Sticks

bread (I used sliced Vienna bread.)

butter

Cut as many slices of bread as desired into sticks 1/2 inch wide. Cut off the crust. Butter both sides of the bread sticks, and then place on a metal baking sheet.  Place under the broiler and broil until lightly browned. Remove from oven and flip, then return to broiler to brown the other side. Remove from heat and serve.

Notes: The process for preparing and cooking the leeks and potatoes in the old recipe was a bit befuddling. The potatoes (which I assume were diced into cubes) were boiled for three minutes, then the water was drained. Next the entire white and light green sections of the leeks were added to the saucepan, and everything was covered with boiling water. This mixture was then cooked until the leeks were tender – at which point, the leeks were removed from the water and thinly sliced; then returned to the water.

When I updated the recipe I simplified the process just a little. Perhaps draining the potatoes after cooking them for several minutes removed excess starch, so I retained that step. And, perhaps pouring boiling water on the leeks and partially cooked potatoes (rather than covering them with cold water which is brought to a boil) affects the texture of the vegetables, so I retained that step.

But, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why the leeks should be cooked before slicing. If seems like it would be much more difficult to slice cooked leeks than raw ones, so I simplified that step and sliced the raw leeks before adding them to the potatoes.

43 thoughts on “Old-fashioned Leek and Potato Soup with Imperial Bread Sticks

  1. I really enjoy leek and potato soup, and rarely make it. I’m not sure why, but I’m glad to be reminded of it. It turned “cold” here overnight (that is, 50 degrees with a stiff wind) so it’s what passes for soup weather. This recipe differs from the one I usually use, so I’m going to give it a try.

    1. I think that you’ll enjoy this soup. Your description of “cold” made me smile – though I’ve definitely felt very cold numerous times when the temperature was 50 – but the weather just wasn’t pleasant.

  2. The toasted bread sticks reminded me of my mother’s simple “croutons” that she served with cream soups in the 1950’s and 60’s. All she did was toast white bread slices in the toaster and then cut them into cubes. It was not until many years later that I saw on TV the Italian or artisan bread cubes tossed in olive oil and either baked or sautéed in a pan and sprinkled with herbs and cheese.

    1. So far it seems like it’s been a a particularly cold March. I keep telling myself that if March comes in like a lion that it was go out like a lamb.

  3. Oh, I am required to make leek and potato soup most weeks by a demanding husband who loves it, but the bread sticks are a new one on me. I think, like you, I’d go for regular bread. No, I don’t get why you’d slice the leeks after cooking either. Keep it simple, eh?

  4. This looks delicious! We can only assume there was a “well-known reason” to cook the leeks before slicing that has been lost throughout the years. Perhaps back then everyone knew to do that for some reason!

    1. I hadn’t thought of it until you mentioned it, but now that you say it, I think that you are absolutely right. This would have been a great way to use stale bread.

  5. I think you’re quite right – it doesn’t make much sense to cut the leeks after cooking, especially since they have so much sand/dirt in them. Always better to cut them fresh and clean thoroughly before cooking.
    The soup, however, looks delicous! 🙂

  6. I would simplify the recipe to.😊 Love this kind of soup. Thanks for bringing it to memory. It will be a soup used this week. 😋

  7. Leeks have such a pleasant taste, a truly underused veggie. Found your site today from the Isabella Alden site. I’m going to love this!

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