Potage Bonne Femme

My Lolly is sick this weekend, which means my Lolly wants soup.  Not just any soup, mind you, but my distinctly comfort-foody potato leek soup.  This super-simple dish is my own personal interpretation of the classic French soup known as Potage Bonne Femme, and is quite delicious and satisfying.  It is a traditional peasant soup served hot, with some texture and body to it.  By contrast, its cousin Vichyssoise has some of the same core ingredients but is served chilled as a smooth puree.


Here are your ingredients to make enough for 6-8 servings:

  • 4 medium russet potatoes
  • 2 large leeks
  • 7 cups milk
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Kosher salt
  • White and black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh basil, chopped

Peel the potatoes and cut them into coarse chunks.  For the leeks we will be using only the white/light green portion — the fibrous dark green tops can be reserved for flavoring a stock if desired.  Cut the roots off the leeks and split them in half lengthwise.  Wash them carefully, peeling back the layers like pages of a book.  They tend to hide some grit between those layers, so be thorough.  After the leeks are washed, slice them crosswise into about 1/2″ pieces.

Place the potatoes, leeks, thyme and milk in a large saucepan, preferably nonstick if you have one.  Slowly bring the mixture up to a gentle simmer, and cook for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.    Using an immersion blender, partially puree the soup to thicken it, but don’t make it completely smooth — that slight bit of texture gives this soup a wonderful rustic appeal.

It’s very easy when making this soup to get a bit of scorched or burnt milk on the bottom of the pan, no matter how gently you try to cook it.  This tends to show up when you do the puree, as little brown bits kick up into your soup, but no worries, it’s entirely harmless and even enhances the appearance, in my humble opinion.  This is, after all, a rustic soup.  If, however, you prefer yours without that extra dab of peasant charm, you can avoid this simply by transferring the soup to a clean saucepan or bowl before doing the puree.

Finally, stir in the heavy cream, and season to taste with kosher salt and white pepper.  Now you’re ready to serve.  Garnish with a swirl of olive oil, a couple turns of fresh pepper from your grinder, and some fresh chopped basil.  Throw in a bit of crusty bread on the side, and you have a hearty, filling and yea, verily, even vegetarian meal.  We munched it down with a big, happy grin on our faces — then had seconds.  Until next time:  Eat well, my friends!



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