The antepenultimate regular season Sunday Night Soup has SNS regulars the Redskins venturing to Minnesota to face the Vikings. The Vikings play indoors, which seems a shame, given the hardiness of their namesakes, and the franchise has languished since moving to a dome in the 1980s.
These teams have radically different foodshedsthe riches of the Chesapeake and the sweeping expanses of the northern reaches of America's breadbasket. Flour comes from Minnesota, and crabs from Maryland, so breaded soft-shelled crabs would be an idea, but they are unwieldy in soup, and out of season, anyway. They will be teeing this one up not long before Santa kicks the tires and lights the fires, and that calls for something festive but not overwhelming. In other words, a perfect spot for Fergus Henderson's leek, potato, and oyster soup.
This recipe is from his first book, published Stateside as The Whole Beast. He has a newer book out as well, Beyond Nose to Tail, which is more attractively produced than the first but not as compelling to cook from. Despite what the newspapers tell you, there is nothing wrong with giving cookbooks not published within the last year, so if you have a cook on your list who likes to use everything but the squeak, start with the first one.
- 7 tablespoons unsalted butter (A good trick I played on my brother-in-law last weekend that you can try anytime you have a recipe that calls for more than 4 and less than 8 tablespoons of butter: meticulously cut off the small piece, then toss the big pie
- 9 leeks, with as much green stuff as possible (You cannot clean leeks well enough—work the individual rings apart, and rinse once more than you think is sane)
- 1 onion, peeled and sliced
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
- 4 potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 2 quarts light chicken stock (A good time to use the real stuff)
- Sea salt and fresh black pepper
- 12 medium oysters, shucked, with liquor reserved (Fergus says Pacific—I say from whichever coast is closer)
In a pan large enough for all the ingredients, melt butter and sweat the leeks, onion, and garlic, taking care not to let them brown. When these are giving, add potatoes and cook for 8 minutes, continuing to avoid browning.
Add the stock and bring to a gentle boil. When the potatoes are cooked through, season to taste with salt and pepper. Purée in blender, (hot liquids and blenders demand care) and return to clean pan, and reheat. Just before serving, add liquor to soup. Place two shucked oysters in each bowl, and ladle soup over.