Thursday, March 3, 2011


As you can probably tell from the highly enlightened teachings on this bl*g, I meditate every day. Here's what's supposed to happen: Eyes closed, I pay attention only to my breath as it flows in and out, my mind empties of all thoughts, and I eventually achieve inner peace or something.

Here's what actually happens: The dog collects his toys from their various hiding places around the house, deposits them at my feet, and wonders why the hell I'm ignoring him, while I sit crosslegged on my office floor, eyes closed, mind wandering.

I can't pay attention to my breath when meditating because I am far too busy thinking very profound thoughts and asking deep philosophical questions of the universe: "What should I eat for lunch? Chester, stop it! I need to buy more peanut butter. I wonder who invented Mr. Potato Head? My foot is falling asleep. I guess I could have an egg on toast. Is it still snowing out? Chester, go lie down! A lump of brown plastic with holes where children can stick eyes and ears, a nose and mouth? Maybe I'll go out to lunch. Goddamnit, Chester! I'm not going out to lunch if it's snowing. I guess most potatoes do resemble portly old men who would sport a mustache and look quite nice in a top hat..." And then the timer goes off and I emerge from my non-Zenlike state enlightened as to what I should eat for lunch: potato leek soup.

Mr. Potato Head, just before he was arrested for vagrancy and public drunkenness.

One of my best friends is the kind of person who always insists she cannot cook and then when you're at her house she whips up a delicious soup using exactly four rather homely ingredients: leeks, potatoes, water, and salt. She doesn't use a recipe, or stock, or cream, or herbs of any sort, but as if by magic her soup is so delicious it tastes as if it has been made by a professional chef or a French housewife. My friend is neither of these, nor is she the kind of person who when meditating would plan her lunch and contemplate the merits of tubers as toys. But I am exactly this kind of person, so when I make potato leek soup I use a recipe, and stock, and I call it Mr. Potato Head and Leek Soup.

Mr. Potato Head, asleep on the beach in Nice while his French housewife plots to turn him into soup

Mr. Potato Head and Leek Soup

From Bon Appétit

This soup really doesn't require a recipe, though I found it helpful to work out the proportions. It would surely be just as delicious without stockmy friend's was, anyway. You could also add a little milk or cream (or even crème fraiche!) at the end, though I didn't find it lacking as is, and I'm sure some fresh or dried dill would be nice, but here at the monastery we keep it simple.

3 tablespoons butter
3 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), halved lengthwise, thinly sliced
2 large russet potatoes (about 18 ounces total), peeled and diced
4½ cups (or more) vegetable or chicken stock
Salt & pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

1. Melt butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks and stir to coat with butter. Cover saucepan, then cook until leeks are tender, stirring often, about 10 minutes.

2. Add potatoes. Cover and cook until potatoes begin to soften but do not brown, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add 4½ cups of stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes.

3. Puree the soup in batches until smooth. Return to the saucepan and thin with additional stock if soup is too thick. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and garnish with chives (the garnish is optional).


  1. So glad to hear that you share my inability to empty my overactive mind -- and now you have filled mine with thoughts of delicious soup when I should be buckling down to the pile of document drafts needing review on my desk and the 80(!) unread emails in my office inbox.
    But at least I know what we're having for dinner now. Maybe DED will come over and entertain us with his latest jury duty tales.

  2. Coincidentally, I was writing an article for Friday's 'New York Social Diary' about a restaurant that existed in our town back in the 1950's. Out of that venture came a slim little cookbook called 'Picasso and Pie'. Though I'm in the Patricia Wells purist camp when I make leek and potato (or as it shall now be known forever in Blue Hill, Maine, Mr. Potato Head & Leek Soup)I've been re-reading the recipes,familiar from my childhood, and was startled this very morning to find their recipe for Vichyssoise, involving in addition to Leeks and Potatoes, celery, parsley (or, since the book was published in '65, parsley flakes), Madeira, and Worcestershire sauce!

    Your Argentinian posts were heaven in this most awful winter.

  3. I'm sure, Sidekick, that our shared inability is due to genius. Or caffeine. Possibly long to-do lists and overstuffed inboxes. (I hope your weekend was warm with soup and document/email free!)

    Parsley flakes, of course -- how could I leave those out? The addition of Madeira sounds rather wonderful, though. DED, I see a future for you in food bl*gging. The Down East Dilettante needs a sister site called Picasso and Pie (great article, by the way!).

  4. My schadenfreude is delighted that your Argentinian adventures let you come home for the worst snow of the winter. Nice knife skills on those leeks, too.