J’aime bien le potage

This is not a food blog, but.

I studied abroad in Angers, France, the fall semester of my junior year of college. The classes generally weren’t too hard, which was nice, and I lived with a host family, which made community-craving me very happy. My host parents and their youngest daughter (about a senior in high school) were absolutely lovely and helped ease some of the homesickness that inevitably comes from being far away from friends and family, especially in a foreign culture. Granted, it was a foreign culture I generally loved, but when you’re mostly on your own for meals sometimes you just want to be able to go to the grocery store after 2000.

And sometimes you’re not able to, and your host mom graciously shares her potage with you.

This soup first made its appearance in mid-fall, maybe October or November, and ostensibly my host mom (or mère d’acceuil) was making it because she was on a diet and the basic recipe is veggies and broth or water and you puree it and you’re done. It was served as the first course, and I remember eating it and going WHAT IS THIS and her telling me “oh it’s just potage c’est bon por la santé” and me thinking who cares this is the best soup ever. (Okay, I cared a little bit. I gained almost ten pounds while living in France, despite walking and biking everywhere, in part I think because I subsisted mainly on quiche, pastries, baguettes, fromage, nutella, and French casseroles. The most memorable of the latter was one that was almost entirely white–cheese and maybe some cauliflower I think, and hardboiled eggs, so the only color was from the egg yolks and also the ham slices because after all miss, this is France.) (And you should see their definition of pizza it’s adorable.) (I digress, don’t I.)

Anyway, we ate a LOT of potage, and it was a fabulous beautiful time in my life, and then I moved back to America and promised myself that I would make potage and it would be delicious and wonderful and I would be so happy again.

That was December 2008.

When I got married in 2012, one of the things I insisted we register for was a stick blender (aka a hand blender) so that one day I would be able to make potage with ease. Some kind soul got it for us (either as an actual gift or as a gift card that we spent on it) (I still haven’t been able to find my thank-you card list from the wedding I promise I’m looking for it), and then into the drawer it went, and then when my husband deployed it went in a box, and it stayed there for quite some time. I don’t remember when I finally pulled it out again–probably 2013, after my husband came back and we settled into our first home together and I said NOW IS THE TIME.

Except then I used it for other things, and another fall and winter came and went, and we moved again and out came the stick blender again and into the drawer it went. And the summer passed, and then suddenly fall came again–but this time, it was different.

This time, I was pregnant.

And it seems a bit silly that it would take PREGNANCY to finally get me to concentrate long enough to remember to google the darn soup and try to find a recipe for it–but on the other hand, what other season of life combines absentminded chaos with laser-sharp desire and focus in this way? (Aside from toddlerhood.) All I know is it was fall, I needed vegetables, and I wanted potage. No. I needed potage. It was going to be everything I ever remembered or dreamed about and it would be perfect and wonderful and I would get veggies and also potage.

So I googled it, and found a recipe called “soupe pour maigrir” which literally means “weight-loss soup,” so I figured I was on the right track, but it had extra vegetables I didn’t remember, and so I went on the hunt for something a little simpler.

I found this recipe. No, go on, please take a moment and read it; the pre-recipe writeup is quite nice.

If you were lazy and didn’t go read it, I’ll sum up for you:

  • leeks, carrots, potatoes (russet) (definitely not red) (and you don’t have to peel!): chop
  • sauté in butter, simmer with thyme in chicken broth
  • add half-and-half, add nutmeg, add lemon juice, make sure heated through, eat.

Looks simple, said pregnant me, and the hardest part about it really is finding leeks in the grocery store. But I did, and so I said, LET US DO THIS THING. And my husband, though clearly bewildered by my obsession, gamely went along with it.

I made a double batch, just in case. I thoroughly washed the leeks (thanks, Barefoot Contessa!) and chopped them up. I chopped the carrots. I panicked that the leeks were already sautéed and I hadn’t gotten to the potatoes. I chopped the potatoes and threw them and the carrots in. I sautéed. I added (homemade) chicken broth (so easy to make) (another time). I fussed with my stove until it simmered. I covered it and left it alone. I came back. I brought out my blessed stick blender and puréed the crap out of it because ain’t nobody got time for this “transfer to blender in batches” stuff. I added lemon juice. I ADDED THE HALF-AND-HALF. I nutmeg’d. I inhaled.

…and then I ate about half of it in one sitting.

It’s creamy. It’s vegelicious. It’s not-quite-sweet but also earthy and has the slightest hint of a bite from the leeks and then it’s creamy and hearty with the broth and I mean literally I could put this in a thermos and just drink it. It was a memory six years in the making, and when I finally made it, I could not believe I had waited so long. And yes, his recipe calls for half-and-half, which I’m almost certain my host mother did not put in hers. But hey, dairy’s important! Seriously though I made this the other night and tasted it with just the veggies pureed and the lemon juice thrown in and you could easily leave out the half-and-half and it would still be delicious.

Did I mention how drinkable this is? And if you ditch the half-and-half there’s basically nothing objectionable about it and did I mention IT IS GOOD FOR YOUR SOUL, OKAY? And if you’re still waffling because half-and-half, this comment on the original post has some great suggestions for ways to alter it.

I don’t really have much else to say; I just made this earlier this week, like I said, and was struck anew by how just damn good this soup is. And the good news is that leeks tend to come in bunches of three at the grocery store, so really you can make 2.5 batches. Or you can save the extra leek and throw it in a quiche, which is also divine. (Leek and potato quiche. I’m not even joking try it you will be amazed.) I mean like I said, the stick blender is pretty amazing here, but if you don’t have one don’t be discouraged. And the good news about the blending is that you don’t have to chop the veggies evenly at all, just enough so that they’ll all be done cooking in half an hour. But also like that comment mentioned, you could let it cook longer and it would still be delicious. I really can’t think of a way you could mess this soup up, unless your veggies were all rotten or something.

Oh! And don’t forget to have bread with it. If you can’t get a baguette traditionelle française (which you probably can’t) (there are laws about how to make it that I’m sure no average American grocery store is going to follow) (ah la France), any kind of crunchy-exterior bread will do, but I mean I just finished mine up with a regular slice of wheat bread and it was fine. Just make sure you ration your bread so you have enough at the end to sop up all the soup your spoon can’t quite reach. If you put your bowl in the sink with bits of potage still visible in it, you’re doing it wrong.

The only downside is that once you’ve eaten it all, it’s all gone. (This is a huge downside for me.) (Probably I should stock up on this before the baby comes.) (You know, oh man, just make it up to the “add half-and-half” step and then freeze it, I bet that’s the secret.) (Am I obsessed?) (Yes.) (Try it.) (You will be too.)

Guys. Potage. Just thought you ought to know.

Categories: food | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “J’aime bien le potage

  1. thewarriorhuntress

    You make me hungry talking about such things, and I just filled up on one of my favorite foods for supper, so it’s not like I’m actually hungry!

  2. Pingback: FRIDAY LINK SPAM RETURNS | precisely what exists

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