On a cold day (of which, lately, there have been many), there are few things more satisfying than Potage Parmentier. The classic potage (thick soup) is made with potatoes and leeks.
Potage Parmentier was named after Auguste-Antoine Parmentier, and is the moniker used for the hot version of the soup sometimes mistakenly called Vichyssoise (named after the spa town of Vichy), a name that should be used for the cold version of the soup. Soup temperature aside, there is another difference between the two soups: vichyssoise is a smooth and creamy soup, whereas parmentier can either be a rustic, chunky broth (with or without milk), or a rich and silky cream soup.
Whenever I think of potatoes and leeks together, I think of France. Ironically, if not for Parmentier, the potato may have never found acclaim there. Here’s a bit more history (Wiki version) about how Parmentier managed to convince France to open their hearts to the humble “pomme de terre” (apple of the earth):
While serving as an army pharmacist for France in the Seven Years’ War, he was captured by the Prussians, and in prison in Prussia was faced with eating potatoes, known to the French only as hog feed. The potato had been introduced to Europe as early as 1640, but (outside of Ireland) was usually used for animal feed. King Frederick II of Prussia had required peasants to cultivate the plants under severe penalties and had provided them cuttings. In 1748 the French Parliament had actually forbidden the cultivation of the potato (on the ground that it was thought to cause leprosy among other things), and this law remained on the books in Parmentier’s time.
Sweet Potato Leek Potage Parmentier Recipe
- 3 to 4 cups, or 1 lb, peeled, sweet potatoes, sliced or diced (you could substitute yams, but the soup will be sweeter)
- 3 cups or 1 lb thinly sliced leeks including the tender green; or yellow onions (but leeks are SO much better)
- 2 quarts of water or stock
- 1 T salt
- 4 to 6 T whipping cream, half-and-half, milk (depending on how rich you want your soup); or, 2 to 3 Tb softened butter
- 2 to 3 T minced thyme (the classic herbs used are chives or parsley)
- Clean and dry leeks (which are famous for hiding bits of dirt and sand).
- Simmer the sweet potatoes, leeks, water, and salt together, partially covered, for 40 to 50 minutes until the vegetables are tender; or, cook in a pressure cooker, under 15 pounds pressure for 5 minutes, release pressure, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.
- Mash the vegetables in the soup with a fork, or pass the soup through a food mill (you can also use a blender or a hand blender, but the soup will turn out smoother with a food mill).
- Set aside uncovered until just before serving, then reheat to the simmer.
- Turn off heat and, just before serving, stir in the cream or butter by spoonfuls.
- Pour into a tureen or soup cups and decorate with the herbs.
Take the road less traveled, Beth