There is this quote I love by Frederic Chopin about simplicity. He says, Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.
The more I explore different artforms, the more I find this to be true. In music, to which Chopin refers, but also in architecture, in painting, and in food, I feel more and more drawn to simplicity. In food, I find simplicity to be primarily about letting the flavors of the main ingredients stand out, rather then drowning them in complex sauces or an 21-spice blend.
There is perhaps no recipe that I admire more for its simplicity than Julia Child’s Potage Parmentier, or Potato Leek Soup. It isn’t just that it has so few ingredients. It’s how well those ingredients come together in the final product. Not including salt and pepper, it has just five ingredients (and one is a garnish!): leeks, potatoes, water or stock, cream, and parsley or chives. Some magic happens in the creation of this soup.
Julia Child’s Potato Leek Soup
Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking
1lb russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1lb leeks, trimmed, cleaned, and thinly sliced
2qt vegetable stock (Julia suggests water, but stock adds a bit more flavor)
1 tablespoon salt
6 tablespoons cream (heavy or whipping cream is fine)
Minced chives or parsley
In a large pot or dutch oven, simmer the veggies and stock together until the potatoes are soft, 40-50 minutes. Turn off the heat and carefully transfer to a blender or food mill in stages to puree, then return soup to the pot. Add the tablespoon of salt (and pepper if desired). Off heat and before serving, add the cream, transfer to serving bowls, and garnish with herbs.
*When the cream is added, some people like to include 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice, which can be delicious.