Wednesday, November 14, 2012

How to make Potato Leek Soup with Brewery Vivant's Farmhand Ale

Written by  Ryan Ranspach
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Potato Leek Soup made with Brewery Vivant's Farmhand Ale

With harvest season now officially passed, it is time to start either canning or using the last round of potatoes, onions, and other subterranean vegetables from the garden. It is no secret that all these kinds of produce are great in soups and other comfort foods. The short, cold days of late autumn can be taxing on a person's disposition, and nothing warms the belly & soul like a rich pot of soup. The world of soup is virtually infinite but one of my favorites, especially this time of year, is potato leek soup. We all know plenty about potatoes but the leek may remain a bit mysterious to some--Allium ampeloprasum is in the same family as onions and garlic but grows in a long sheath rather than a tight bulb like its cousins. Leeks are an extremely hardy plant preferring sandy soil and can grow rather tall. When harvested for use, the long green stalks must be removed and the white cylinder at the bottom should be sliced lengthwise and cleaned thoroughly, as the way it grows allows for a significant amount of dirt and sand to collect there (here is a short video showing how to clean and prep them).
Brewery Vivant's Farmhand Ale with Ingredients for Potato Leek SoupSome popular means of cooking leeks include frying, boiling, serving raw with salads or as a garnish, and of course, in soup. Since this soup seems very provincial & "of the harvest" and that the leek itself has strong cultural ties to Wales and Saxony, I thought it would be fitting to incorporate a beer that embodied some of these same qualities, so I picked up a 4 pack of Farmhand Ale (two for the soup and two to drink) by Brewery Vivant in Grand Rapids. This is a beer styled after the old world French farm ales that were produced at almost every family farm to provide the workers with a ration of beer each day--it has strong and rustic flavors of dried grains, lemon peel, and hay which makes it a great pairing with or ingredient in food. So, here is what you'll need to make this rich and delicious autumnal soup...
The Ingredients:
  • 5-6 Medium-Large Leeks, thoroughly cleaned, chopped, and soaked for 12-24 hours in Brewery Vivant's Farmhand French Style Farmhouse Ale
  • 2 Pounds (about 6 or 7) Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 5 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
  • 1/2 Cup White Wine
  • 2 1/2-3 Quarts Chicken or Vegetable Stock
  • 1 1/2 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 1 Handfull Chopped Parsley (dired parsley is also fine)
  • 1 Half Package Bacon, cooked and chopped (optional for garnish)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Melt the butter over medium heat, add the leeks and cook down until they begin to liquefy, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Bring the heat down to medium-low and add the white wine and garlic, continue occasional stirring and reduce wine for about 5 more minutes. Add the salt & pepper, chicken or vegetable stock, and potatoes, and increase heat to medium high. Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer until the potatoes soften, about 30-40 minutes. At this point, turn off the heat and use an immersion blender to puree the mixture until smooth. Add the heavy cream and stir until combined. Serve hot, garnished with the bacon and with plenty of cold beer.

This soup was delicious and easy--truly one of the best dishes we have made using Michigan beer. I was mildly alarmed at the smell of the leeks after soaking them in the beer overnight (that joint was funky!), but the complex flavors of the Farmhand really got into the leeks and gave the soup something extra. A+ on this recipe, and thanks to the owners of the farm that provided the leeks, two very dear friends of mine.