Rachel Allen's Potato, Leek, and Smoked Bacon Soup


[Photograph: Lis Parsons]

Potato and leek soup is one of those meals that every home cook should have in his or her repertoire. The soup is filling, cheap, easy to make, and almost always tastes more complex than its name implies. In Rachel's Irish Family Food, Rachel Allen adds even more complexity to the standard purée by building the soup base with smoky bacon. She also ups the allium quotient by adding a chopped onion to the mix, and finishes it all of with a bright swirl of parsley pesto. It is this pesto that really takes the soup to another level, adding herbaceousness and a bright green color—perfect for a St. Patrick's day meal.

Why I picked this recipe: Potato leek soup screams easy comfort food to me. Adding a swirl of parsley pesto makes the meal festive for St. Patrick's Day.

What worked: Between the smoky bacon base and bright parsley pesto finish, this soup is anything but an ordinary bowl of puréed potatoes.

What didn't: Allen does not specifically call for Irish back bacon in the recipe, but given the instructions to crisp the bacon over high heat in about 1 minute, it is clear that she isn't working with American-style belly bacon. If you can get your hands on back bacon, use it as directed. Otherwise, brown bacon slowly over medium heat until crisp and pour off a good bit of the rendered fat before preceding (I left in about 1 tablespoon).

Suggested tweaks: You could easily make this vegetarian by omitting the pork.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Rachel's Irish Family Food to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer out of Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, Berkeleyside NOSH, and blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.

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