Thursday, November 12, 2015

Smoked Salmon and Leek Soup

After the success of our first Welsh leeks dish, I was pretty excited for our second Welsh challenge meal, since the second one was the dish I had been even more intrigued by when initially scanning the St. David's Day recipe site. It also seemed like it would be a fairly easy recipe to make, so hopefully not another 10pm weeknight meal. For this challenge meal, I went with an adapted version of this recipe for smoked salmon and leek soup.

The ingredients I used for my adapted recipe were:

- 2 tbsp butter ($0.40)
- 16 oz bag of sliced leeks ($1.49)
- 1 bay leaf ($0.10)
- 2 large potatoes ($0.98)
- 4-1/2 cups chicken broth ($1)
- salt and pepper to taste ($0.05)
- 8 oz of smoked salmon ($8.49)
- 1/2 cup of half and half * ($0.60)
- spoonful of potato starch ($0.05)
- small bunch of chives ($2)
- 1/2 box of brioche toasts ($1)

* The original recipe had double cream, but as far as I know, US grocery stores don't carry real British style double cream. Instead, I decided to use half and half, which seemed like a good decision at the time I planned out the recipe, but then didn't seem like such a good idea a few hours before I made it. I started to panic that the half and half was going to curdle in the soup and make the entire thing an inedible mess. After much research, I decided to add it slowly as the last step, and to mix it with potato starch before adding it to the soup. I have no idea if the potato starch kept it from curdling but someone on the internet seemed to think that would work and I was willing to try it, because the worst that could happen (other than curdling) was the soup would just get thicker, which would be totally fine. In the end, there was no curdling, thank goodness.

This was a pretty expensive soup, mostly because of the smoked salmon (which didn't have a price when I picked it up off the shelf, and I thought it would be cheaper than it was). The total came out to about $16.16. That made enough for the two of us for dinner (a filling dinner), and a small bowl of soup for me for lunch the next day (not enough for an entire lunch). Not cheap, but I guess potentially cheaper than it would be to order it out at a restaurant. Still more than I'd like to spend on a single dinner that's just soup.

The steps to make the soup were pretty straightforward, so I thought it would be quick and easy. Easy, maybe, but not quick. The steps were:

1. Prep - thinly slice leeks, peel and dice potatoes, slice salmon, chop chives. (Other than the leeks, I did most of it while cooking, but putting the prep step together anyway.)

2. Melt butter in large pot. Add leeks and bay leaf, and cook for about 10 minutes.

3. Add potatoes and coat with butter.  (I actually added the second tbsp of butter at this point because I didn't feel like I added enough the first time.)

4. Add chicken broth, salt and pepper, bring to boil, lower flame to simmer and cook until potatoes are soft, maybe 15 minutes. (This does not sound like it should take that long, but it took forever to get that to start boiling so I could lower the flame. I even had the cover part on to make it happen faster but it didn't. The heat wasn't super high because I wasn't sure at the time when I was adding the half and half and didn't want it to curdle, but it still shouldn't have taken that long. I think we watched most of a TV show while waiting for the thing to boil and it wasn't even that big of a pot!)

5. Once potatoes are soft (I tested that by crushing them against the side of the pot, which I like to do in soup anyway), remove from heat, add about 2/3 of the smoked salmon, mix in, and season more (I added more pepper). 

6. Mix half and half in a bowl with potato starch. Add and stir into the mixture a little bit at a time until the entire bowl has been added. Serve with a few salmon pieces on top and chives.

The soup was pretty good, but for how long it took and all of my expectations, I was expecting more from it. Unlike the other leeks dish, you could barely taste the leeks here. An entire bag full of leeks, but a very subdued flavor. If I didn't know they were there, I probably wouldn't have even named leeks as an ingredient. I know it wasn't leeks week, but still disappointing. I guess they were just overpowered by the other flavors. You could taste the salmon in the bites that had it, you got the flavoring of the black pepper, the chives were definitely present, and the potatoes gave the soup most of its texture and flavor, but the leeks, not so much. The soup was creamy, but probably would have been creamier, and the other ingredients would have been richer if I had actually used double cream earlier in the process instead of just adding half and half at the end. Oh well. The soup was still good, and I was happy to have more to eat the next day, but I just thought it would be more special.

We ate these brioche toasts with the soup. I was supposed to pick up some crostini at the store but almost forgot, and as I inched down the checkout line, this box of brioche toasts was the closest thing that seemed suitable for the soup. They were basically like small pieces of toast, very crumbly, with buttery and sweet flavors like brioche would have. I liked eating them with the soup (and with other soups/stews), but when I ate them by themselves, they just reminded me of plain dry toast, which I only eat when on the BRAT diet (not a great association for me). A really liked the sweetness and toast flavors here. Buy again? Maybe. A likes them more than I do.

It was a pretty good dinner overall, but considering both the time it took and the final results, I'm not sure I would make this again. The other leeks dish, absolutely, but this one, maybe not. I'm glad I tried it and it was a satisfying dinner, but not the week's best.

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