Claude Monet Recipe Pt. I - Leek and Potato Soup

Today and tomorrow will be another set of cross-over postings with Art Round Table.  If you visit Rocco's site, you (hopefully) will see my post about the great impressionist artist Claude Monet.  Unlike most artists, he was appreciated during his lifetime and was able to indulge his own appreciation towards food, keeping a detailed journal of meals and recipes prepared by his cook.

This kind of stuff is exciting to me (yes, I am that boring, so sue me...).  I totally dislike books that claim to contain recipes for dishes a famous artist ate, but then when you open the book, you find the disclaimer of, "these are recipes (famous artist) MIGHT have eaten."  I found a book in the library about Van Gogh that contains actual recipes from a restaurant he actually frequented, but the first paragraph of each chapter admits Van Gogh pretty much subsisted on bread and coffee (in his madness he believed that he painted better when he was starving).

But Monet's Table is based on translations of Monet's cooking journals, so you know you are getting the real deal here.

The photo at the top is Monet's own dining room in his restored house in Giverny (open to the public and only 55 or so miles from Paris, in case you are interested in dropping by).  The two tones of yellow paint were selected by Monet, just as he did with the the rest of the house (the door to the kitchen is slightly-ajar, where you can see its blue walls, the colors selected to harmonize with the dining room).

Meals were served by his cook Marguerite, but to Monet's specifications.  According to Organization Claude Monet, every time he dined at a restaurant or was given a recipe by friends, he would be "relentless until she mastered the recipe."

This photo of the dining room is not as clear as the one above, but you can see some of the table set with blue and yellow Limoges dishes.

But back to business ...

Today's recipe is Leek and Potato Soup.  It only has five ingredients, two of which are water and salt.  I poked around the internets, and most other recipes contain at least a few more ingredients (and some contain lots more).  I thought, how could such a simple recipe have any taste, and was ready with a few other herbs and bullion, just in case.  I wound up putting them all away.  The soup is amazingly flavorful as it is.  No real need to add anything else. 

Because I was serving this soup at a meat meal, I substituted margarine for the original butter and it was still great!  In fact, the original recipe calls for adding more butter margarine just before serving.  After tasting the soup, I left the extra butter margarine out, and No. One. Noticed.  Trust me, just like all the other items I didn't add, the extra butter margarine is absolutely not necessary. The new quantity is listed below.

The original says just to slice the potatoes.  I thought slices from a whole potato were a little large, so I cut them into smaller pieces.  There was nothing mentioned either about peeling the spuds; I mistakenly did it out of habit.  Next times the skins remain for an even more rustic appearance.  

Leek and Potato Soup
Soupe aux poireaux et pommes de terre

Adapted from  Monet's Table : The Cooking Journals of Claude Monet
Yield:  4-6 servings

4 Tbl. (1/4 cup) margarine (or butter)
5-6 leeks, depending upon size
4 cups of very hot water
1 tsp. salt (or more, to taste)
4 large potatoes

Cut off the dark green leaves on the leeks and discard.  Cut off the roots and admire how cute they look, almost like spiders.  Then toss them as well.

Slice through the leeks lengthwise.

Leeks can be very dirty, so rinse them carefully under cold running water or swoosh them around in a large pot of cold water.

Place leeks on cutting board and cut them into about 1/2 inch slices.  Set aside for a moment.

Heat a 4 quart (or larger) saucepan over medium-high heat.  When hot, add margarine.  After margarine melts and bubbles, add leeks.  Saute for about 5 minutes, or until they soften a bit.  Avoid browning to prevent leeks from becoming bitter.

Slowly pour in very hot water.  Sprinkle in salt.  Cover and bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel potatoes, quarter potatoes, then slice thinly potatoes.

After the 45 minutes are up, uncover the pot, add the potatoes and recover.  Return to a simmer, then cook for an additional 20 minutes.

Ladle soup into individual bowls.  Serve hot.


Anonymous said…
Thank you for the recipe. One has to remember though that he used butter from Normandie which is very flavorful and both leeks and potatoes are typical Normand dishes. So while this is a great recipe, it is more flavorful with the original ingredients and the butter is a rich yellow so colors the soup somewhat. The potatoes he used are also yellow and fall apart, they are more like Yukon gold potatoes. Monet was born in Normandie and very proud of the delicious ingredients he used.
Anonymous said…
I think that substituting margarine for butter is never a good thing. Margarine is not food in my view. Monet would be turning over in his grave, especially given that Normandy butter is so good.

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