the book that begat a blog that begat another book that begat this blog posting. or: potato and leek soup. there is something a bit meta about my potage à parmentier. mostly because the inspiration behind making it comes from my blitz-through reading of julie & julia, a book based on this blog which I’d not planned to read (the book, not the blog – the blog I’d followed on and off at various stages of its development a few years back). the book, like the blog, is entertaining – clever, at times laugh-out-loud funny, a little self-deprecating, a lot crass, and probably too smart for its own good. and realizing that it is, indeed, pretty good sort of makes me wonder why we denigrate/blow off those that find success. because, while julie picked up a pretty significant blog readership and not a little press, there was at least a handful of sour grapes circulating in food blogging circles about her book deal, etc. it’s not unlike the hating-on-amanda-hesser (where’s she gone, anyway?) thing, and let me be totally honest and say that i was a little put out by not just julie’s success but the enormity of her success. i think i’ll attribute it to her accessibility, her everywoman-ness, and that she tackled something that i really could have (should have) done myself (dammit.). (this is a whole can of worms deserving a post of its own – it’s threatening a takeover in this one already.) i've gotten over the jealousy though. she deserves every last bit of recognition. anyway. i highly recommend the book. worth reading even if you’ve read every post on her blog (maybe especially so). mostly because she’s a capable writer, with a confessional, nastily funny kind of frankness that makes one really wish she were one’s friend. but also because she has that ability as a food writer to insinuate future meals into your head. this is particularly remarkable given her often grisly, tortured descriptions of the cooking process and sort of limited remarks on the outcomes. so yes, the point is, i made potage à parmentier because i read a passage in a book, which came from a blog based on a woman’s travails cooking through a book. and now i’m blogging about it. the whole thing makes one rather dizzy, doesn’t it? luckily, potage à parmentier (potato leek soup) is a good cure for such dizziness. potage à parmentier the description of the soup in the book is pretty cursory, but i’ve got enough soupmaking under my belt to riff on it, sautéeing leeks in butter and tossing in cubed potatoes to sweat for a while, adding the chicken stock that’d been hanging out in my fridge for a week, simmering it all while i tried to assemble my next music mix, and then giving it all a little buzz with the immersion blender once the potatoes were cooked through. yes, my parsley chiffonade is pretty half-assed, but it's enough that i remembered it. the piment d'espelette is, as always, key. this, like so many soups, is very much a case where the total is greater than the sum of its parts. without at least some kind of mashing or blending, the disparate elements really just sit apart, in the bowl and on the tongue; something that tastes like potatoes and soggy leeks in chicken stock. but miscegenation not only gives this soup an astonishingly silky, velvety mouthfeel, but also makes it taste wholly like something else. like, say, liquid potato chips, if you, like me, are a little zealous with the salt. or like an almost-clam chowder, if you, like me, manage to correct the saltiness with an extra potato and some liquid after the first couple of bowls. and then, because reading all these descriptions about ridiculous quantities of butter and animal fat just makes me really freakin’ hungry, i made my own rice pudding for the first time ever. rice pudding i had a phase towards the end of college where i kept a constant supply of kozy shack rice pudding in the fridge, and i had a ritual of eating half a (pint, i think?) container at a time, giving it a good ol’ shake-shake with the cinnamon. i managed to get joyce hooked on this for a while too, but it’s now been nearly 4 years since i’ve had any rice pudding. writing that post about thai food house the other day put the stuff back in my head, so i pulled out the mark bittman and made his incredibly simple version with the last of my thai long grain (boo), some coconut milk (whoot!) (one of his many variations on the plain ol’ milk version) and 1/3 the sugar (because what is it with american cookbook writers and their ridiculous quantities of sweetener?). i briefly considered adding vanilla or almond extract but decided (wisely, i maintain) to leave well enough alone and stick with the cinnamon. it was just as good as the kozy shack – better even, because it was as good as my memory of it.


Anonymous daisy said...

that's cinnamon on top of your rice pudding? looks like the same pepper seasoning on top of your potato-leek soup.

4/21/2006 08:08:00 PM  
Blogger A. L. said...

I have never enjoyed rice pudding. However, I absolutely love tapioca. Isn't that a head scratcher? The soup looks really good.

4/21/2006 09:02:00 PM  
Blogger winnie said...

daisy, the cinnamon looks like the piment d'espelette because sadly, i have to grate all my cinnamon by hand with the microplane (which is really a giant pain in the ass -- never have i appreciated mccormick's more). so i end up with these macro-flakes of cinnamon. and the lighting is all funny when i take photos at night without natural sunlight, hence the reddish cast. thankfully, the cinnamon doesn't taste like the pepper.

4/23/2006 05:07:00 PM  

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