So you know what’s funny? Go down to the galley and start to cooking. When your captain hollers down the companionway — “Whatcha workin’ on down there?” — shout back…”LEAKS!”
Depending on the depth and resilience of your captain’s sense of humor, you might don a floatation device before trying that one. Or at least be ready to serve him this wonderfully conciliatory soup.
All hull-integrity jokes aside, leeks are great galley ingredients. They’re hearty, easily stored, and widely available — grown essentially like onions, frequently almost year-round. They are far mellower than onions but with a similar flavor…you can roast them, throw them into any kind of saute or vegetable medley, or my favorite…use them as a primary ingredient in soups. This one in particular whips up in about 30 minutes, from a handful of ingredients, all easily kept aboard long term.
The most critical step of any leek recipe is WASHING. These little buggers essentially grow into what they are by having dirt work its way between the layers and leaves, and that dirt is in there between the layers waiting to ruin your soup. If you’re conserving water on a passage, you can honestly do this stage with salt water and then just give them the briefest freshwater rinse (or possibly not, and compensate on the added culinary salt? Never tried it, but I don’t see why not…) but DO NOT SKIMP on the rinsing. Cut the ends as far down the bulb as possible, then cut off the green tops at the point at which they seem to loose color and edible fleshiness. (Unlike most stronger onions, the tops can be added to other vegetable scraps to boil for stock.)
Slice the leek lengthwise, and then into chunks about 3/4″ wide. At this point, if any additional pieces toward the top seem woody, wilted, or otherwise bleak, toss ’em, but don’t toss anything just for being dirty.
Immerse the leeks in a big bowl of water, loose enough to really push and slosh them around. Now push and slosh them around for a while to loosen the dirt and let it filter out. You’re really going to want to work this for a bit — separate the rings to the extent they allow (if they won’t separate to a little prying, then they resisted dirt before they resisted your fingers). This is best done with your hands, but on this early spring day the water and galley were so cold I lost feeling pretty quickly and took occasional “circulation breaks” with a spoon!
Slice 12 ounces of kielbasa into 1/2″ pieces…
and a pound or so of red potatoes, scrubbed, into bite-sized pieces.
Brown the sausage over medium high heat in a soup pot — no added grease, they’ll release enough of their own and you want browning, not frying — for eight minutes or so. Lift them out onto a paper towel-lined plate to drain a bit, leaving as much grease behind as you can.
Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in the pan and add the leeks and potatoes. Going back to the most important step of this recipe — the washing — when it comes time to add the leeks to the pan do not strain the bowl of leeks and water, or you’re just dumping the dirt that you’ve washed out of them back over them. Lift them out of the water with your hands or a slotted spoon, carefully leaving all that dirt behind at the bottom of the bowl.
Don’t believe me? Please see above dirt left in bowl.
Saute the leeks and potatoes for 8-10 minutes, over medium-high heat until the leeks begin to wilt a bit.
Sprinkle a good tablespoon of flour over the vegetables and stir in thoroughly for a minute.
Add a quart (4 cups) of chicken broth (here’s where you might use salt-free broth, particularly if you sea-water rinsed the leeks). Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until a potato, tasted, is delicious.
You’ve got 15-20 minutes…poke your head out the companionway and see who is brave enough to be out on the first, hesitantly-spring-like day!
When the potatoes are perfectly cooked, transfer a couple of cups of the soup to a blender or food processor and puree. This is what is going to make the soup creamy. Under way, you can certainly partially accomplish this with a potato masher, but really pureeing the mixture gives you a much creamier texture and deeper flavor from the leeks. Usually I use my hand-powered food processor, but having misplaced it in the winterizing, and being in the slip on shore power today, blessedly had access to an actual blender.
Stir the puree through and add the sausage back. Season with a good teaspoon or so of both salt and pepper, to taste.
Serve with a good, crusty bread with butter, and olives.