When I'm out doing my Christmas shopping at the mall, I usually look forward to swinging by Panera Bread to grab a bowl of soup and a sandwich. Have y'all tried their Broccoli Cheddar Soup before? Creamy and cheesy and full of comfort. It is one of my favorites. And they always give you that nice hunk of bread with it too. My sweet friend Amanda likes the Creamy Tomato Soup with a grilled cheese sandwich. She really likes the cheesy croutons they put in there. She's just a big kid at heart really. My son's favorite is no surprise - Chicken Noodle Soup. That one is low-fat for all of you watching your diet. So, I decided to come up with a recipe for a soup that uses leeks. Panera's Sonoma Chicken Stew uses leeks as an ingredient and it really adds some phenomenal flavor to the soup party. Have you ever seen a leek? Have you cooked with a leek? Do you know what one is?
They look like an overgrown green onion, don't they? And that's because they are related. If you like onions and green onions, then chances are you going to enjoy the leek. It has a mild onion flavor. The only thing you have to remember when using leeks is you have to clean them well and cook them up before adding them to any dish. If you can't find leeks where you live, then please feel free to substitute an onion in this recipe.
6 slices of bacon, chopped
2 leeks, chopped (just use the light green & white parts)
1 (32 oz.) container, chicken broth
2 cups water
5 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 cup carrots, diced
1 cup celery, diced
½ tsp. dried dill weed
1 tsp. garlic powder
salt & pepper, to taste
2 cups half & half
½ cup all-purpose flour
Garnish: shredded cheddar cheese, bacon pieces
If you've never worked with leeks before, let me walk you through the steps. First you need to cut off the dark green parts and discard. You don't use them at all. Put them in a compost bin or some people use them for stocks.
Cut off the root end, then cut the leek vertically down the middle.
Leeks are dirty little veggies. They grow in sandy soil so they trap that soil in their layers. After we cut up the leeks, we'll rinse them really well.
Cut into about 1-inch slices.
I just love that onion-y smell as I'm dicing them up.
Now put the diced leeks into a bowl of water to rinse. Or put them in a colander like I do and squirt them with water. This will help get all the dirt out that might be trapped in the layers of the leeks. Dry them well.
Now it's time to cook them. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add chopped bacon. Allow some of the fat to render from the bacon and let it brown slightly. Then add in chopped leeks. Cook until leeks are soft and bacon is crisp. Drain any excess grease.
Transfer bacon and leeks to your slow cooker (it needs to be at least a 6-quart slow cooker.) Add in potatoes, carrots, and celery.
Stir in chicken broth.
And don't forget the seasonings (dill weed, garlic powder and salt & pepper).
Give it all a good stir, then cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours.
During the last 30 minutes of cooking, in a medium bowl, whisk together half & half with flour.
Add this mixture to the slow cooker and stir well.
Cook for an additional 30 minutes. Now, at this point, give it a taste. I always find I need to add a bit more salt, but I’ll leave that up to your taste buds.