Jacques Pepin's Potato Leek Soup

I just made a batch of this soup from his “Fast Food” PBS show and it was… OK. But it kinda tasted too much like Campbell’s Mushroom Soup [w/ leeks added].

Any recommendations to improve it? The recipe is:

Cut up some leeks and mushrooms, saute until tender. Add:

4 cups chicken stock (bring to a boil)
1 cup instant potato flakes
1 cup + of milk (bring to a boil again)

Top with some chopped chives.

It was a little gritty from the flakes, and just not all that great.

It’s pretty cool where I live right now, so it wasn’t like it was the wrong soup for the season.

My first thought was cut the potato flakes in half, and maybe reduce the milk by half, too, with more stock instead. Maybe add a couple bay leaves for flavor.

Use real potatoes.

I just made a big pot of split pea soup with smoked sausage and it’s like 95 degrees during the day but it’s still good soup so I don’t think it’s a seasonal thing.

Of course, I had too much wine so my judgment may be a little off … hey! You could add some wine!

But seriously, real potatoes.

Yeah, real potatoes makes sense. But that would change the recipe considerably, no? Parboil the potatoes, or just boil them for 10 - 15 minutes in the chicken stock and add the leeks/mushrooms afterwards?

Seems to be lacking spices. Like any of them. I’d start by playing around with maybe some cayenne, a buttload of garlic, maybe some thyme. Toss in some butter or olive oil as well.

I’d saute the leeks first, then add diced potatoes, and then add stock until just a bit over the top of the potatoes. Boil until the potatoes are falling apart, then add more stock if you want a thinner soup, and a blob of sour cream if you’re feelng decadent. Maybe even some dill.

How about using a stick blender when the potatoes are done, and then add the leeks?

I don’t know about the cayenne, garlic, and thyme – and I love my cayenne and garlic. I don’t think it’s that kind of soup. I’d suggest a bay leaf, salt, and some pepper (white, if you have it). I agree with the butter.

What’s a stick blender?

I agree.

I didn’t put it in the recipe in the OP, but I did salt and pepper the leeks when sauteing, and I added pepper to the final product. And there was, of course, a good deal of olive oil as part of the saute process. White pepper is an interesting idea.

Wouldn’t that turn the leeks to mush?

One of these. Roomie discovered mine (well, I showed it to her when she bemoaned my lack of a food processor), and she loves it.


I cook up some bacon first and remove it from the pot. Then saute the leeks in the rendered fat. I sometimes dice up some celery and carrots and add that to the leeks. Add chicken broth and diced potatoes and the chopped bacon. Cook until the potatoes are done. Add milk or cream or sour cream, if desired. I don’t mash or blend the potatoes. Season to taste. Top with shredded cheddar, if desired. Also good with grilled cheese sandwiches.

If you prefer, you can used diced ham and cook it in some butter.

It may not be apparent from Johnny L.A.'s stick blender link, but the part that looks like a handle has a mixer at the bottom which you submerge into whatever you’re blending. (In other words, you don’t have to use the jar in order to mix or whip things with it.)


I seem to make the soup differently each time. Sometimes I use stock, sometimes I use water. I pretty much throw everything into a pot and let it cook until the potatoes and chicken are done, then finish it off with some cream. (I have to admit that the last time I had potato-leek soup, a couple of weeks ago, it was from a can. Recipe: Open can. Dump in a pot. Heat. Sometimes I get lazy.) I really should settle on a recipe that I call Potato Leek Soup, rather than potato-chicken-leek-whatever.

Say, what was the Welshman doing beside the road?
Havin’ a leek!

Potato Leek Soup is SUPPOSED to be mild. Adding “spices,” bacon, etc. might suit your tastes but that’s not what the dish is supposed to be. It’s not potato soup, it’s potato-leek soup, where both elements have equal roles. If you want something else, make something else.

The OP’s recipe seems like a “lazy man’s” version of a recipe that’s already pretty easy.

The biggest improvement here, as said, is to use real potatoes. Dice 'em and toss 'em in the pot. When they’re cooked, either use a stick blend or just ladle the soup into a regular blender. You can serve it unblended, but I think you’re missing out if you do.

I’d also recommend using equal parts leeks and diced yellow onions and skipping the mushrooms. Onions will add to the flavor but the leeks will still shine through. Make sure you sweat them thoroughly in the first step – the onions should be translucent and soft.

Don’t skip the milk. If anything, substitute part cream. Part of the magic of good potato-leek soup is in the interplay of potato, leek, and milkfat. If you’re inclined to add more broth, add more salt instead: that’s probably what you’re really missing.

Don’t try to jazz it up with spices or extras – it doesn’t need it. Anything you add will overpower. A couple cracks of black pepper with the potatoes and a good dose of salt is all you’ll need. That’s not to say carrots or celery or cheese wouldn’t be darn tasty; it’s just that potato-leek soup can absolutely be darn tasty without 'em, and it’s worth tasting. :slight_smile:

This is excellent advice. The OP seems to be just missing something in the recipe, rather than looking for a substantially different dish. Along with the various suggestions to use diced potatoes instead of flakes, I believe typoink gives a good incremental improvement with the substitution of yellow onion instead of the mushrooms.

OTOH, if you’re a bold flavors type of guy -or in such a mood- nothing wrong with jazzing up a classic mild recipe and turning it into something different. Throw in some other aromatics, saute in bacon fat, and then do the stock/taters/stick blender/cream process. Try a drizzle of some vinegar based hot sauce on top of the finished soup! It won’t be potato-leek soup, but it’ll be good.

Fry up some bacon, saute the leeks and mushrooms in the bacon fat, and crumble the bacon on top of the soup. Works wonders with potato and leek soups.

The French Onion Soup recipe I have used for decades calls for heaps of bacon to be fried (and then discarded) so that the onions can be cooked in the bacon fat.

Naturally being not French, I cook this in the morning. The bacon is not discarded, it is used to make a plate of BLT toasted sandwiches for breakfast and the soup becomes lunch or dinner.

Lots of good advice. I have to admit I was very suspicious of the potato flakes, and I think that is the biggest part of the problem. It made the broth very thick, and I don’t really care for that type of soup. Thick and creamy = yuck, for me when it comes to soup.

If I use a sick blender on the potatoes, though, will it result in the same consistency? If so, maybe I would be better off just leaving the potatoes whole, or just blending some of them so that the broth doesn’t get too thick.

Yes, it’s supposed to be Jacques Pepin’s “fast food” recipe.

When we make it, we do just like Eva Luna suggested, then use a blender (stick blender or regular one) on about half the total volume. Usually it comes out nice that way. The leeks don’t get mushy per se, but definitely soft.

For seasoning we use just salt, pepper and a bay leaf.

Yes, potato and leek soup,as I’ve generally had it, on the thicker and creamier side of things. If you wanted to, you could do as you suggested, blending only a portion of the broth and potatoes to make a creamy, but not too creamy and thick base (or none of the broth, if you like it this way), and leave the rest of the potatoes in chunks. By using real potatoes instead of the instant mashed variety, you could completely control the viscosity and creaminess to your tastes. I would agree with the comments to keep it simple, just salt and pepper and maybe a little bit of thyme (or the bay leaf). It’s not supposed to be heavily spiced soup.