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Leek and Potato Soup with Roasted Pears

Mary Anne here. Okay, I must confess, we’re on a pear tear here at Feast on the Cheap. Having discovered that pears enhance everything from soup to Cinnamon Pear Coffee Cake, we just can’t get enough of this seasonal fruit. Pears add a certain je ne sais quoi to all manner of recipes, so I decided that my Leek and Potato potage might benefit from their subtle sweetness.

For this creation, I used Anjou pears since they were on sale for 88 cents a pound, but don’t restrict yourself, any pear will do. As with the Acorn Squash and Pear Soup, I took the time to roast the pears, which makes all the difference in the flavor department. This time however, I cooled them in a separate bowl and I was able to see just how much juice these babies add to the pot. Most impressive.

As a side note, I garnished this with far more watercress than the picture indicates. This was a tough soup to photograph and I had to resort to using the dreaded flash. While the flavor of the product is brilliant, the color…eh, not so much. Just before serving, I tossed in a handful of trimmed watercress to each bowl. The ‘cress added a delightful, peppery crunch to every bite, but if you’re plum out of the green stuff, rest assured, this soup stands alone!

Leek and Potato Soup with Roasted Pears
Makes 10 cups

1½ lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced – $1.54
1 lb. leeks, split in half lengthwise and rinsed of all grit/sand under cold running water. Trim away the outer, tough green leaves. Cut the white and pale green portions into thin slices. – $2.49
3 pears, cut in half, seeded and cored, skin intact – $1.72
1 large Vidalia or Maui onion, sliced thin and then quartered – $1.09
2 cloves of garlic, minced – stock
3 Tablespoons sweet butter – stock
2 Tablespoons olive oil – stock
5 cups homemade chicken or vegetable stock or packaged low sodium broth – $3.00
¾ Teaspoon dried Tarragon – stock
¼ sherry (Cooking sherry or the real deal. Alternatively, white wine works.) – stock
1 bunch watercress, rinsed and tough stems removed – $1.69
Grand Total Assuming a Well-Stocked Pantry: $10.53
Total Per 1-cup Portion: $1.05

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the pear halves, cut side up, in a baking dish large enough to accommodate. Pour 1 cup of the chicken broth around, not over the fruit. Cover the pan tightly with tin foil and bake for 1 to 1 ½ hours until the pears are fork-tender. Peel the cooked fruit or scoop out its pulp, when cool enough to handle. Reserve the cooking stock, pulp and rendered juices.

2. Meanwhile, in a large stockpot, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-high flame. Sauté the leeks and sliced onion, stirring frequently, until translucent, about 10 minutes.

3. Add the diced potatoes and garlic to the pot, and cook until just beginning to soften, about 10 minutes. Do not allow the potatoes to brown.

4. Add the remaining chicken stock, pear pulp, and the reserved pear/chicken stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat. Cover and simmer gently for about 30 minutes.

5. Add the sherry, Tarragon, and salt and pepper to taste and simmer an additional 5 minutes.

6. Transfer the soup (in batches) to a food processor armed with the metal blade. Process the soup until smooth, returning each pureed batch to the soup pot. Gently reheat and correct the seasonings. Garnish individual servings with watercress, if desired.