Cawl Cennin a Thatws
March 1, 2011
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In Wales, March 1st is celebrated as Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant, Saint David’s day, the national holiday. It is an occasion for parades, singing, and, most importantly, the wearing of leeks, Saint David’s personal symbol. And part of the festivities is often the eating Cawl Cennin a Thatws—Leek and Potato Soup—of which there are many versions. Traditionally the soup would be made with chicken stock but since I had none at hand I used some vegetable stock I made from some leek trimmings. Since Welsh bacon is not smoked I used some homemade pancetta. If you use American bacon, boil it in water for a few minutes to remove some of the smokiness.
- 1 large or 2 medium leeks
- 1 small onion
- 1 stalk celery
- 3 or 4 medium potatoes, about 1 pound
- 1 tsp. butter
- 3 ounces pancetta or bacon, diced
- 1 qt. stock
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- Salt and pepper
Remove the dark green leaves from the leeks and slice into quarters lengthwise. Rinse well to remove the sand and dirt that leeks always have in them. Chop crosswise into small dice. Cut the onion and celery into similar sized pieces and put into a bowl with the leeks. Set aside.
Peel the potatoes and cut them in ½-inch dice. Set aside.
Heat a heavy 3-qt. pot on medium high heat and melt the butter. Add the bacon and sauté, stirring often, until the fat is rendered out and the lean is crispy, about 5 minutes. (Watch carefully toward the end because the bacon goes from not done to burnt very quickly.) Pour off a bit of the fat if you wish.
Reduce the heat to low and add the leeks, onions, and celery. Stir to coat with the rendered bacon fat, cover the pot, and let sweat until soft but not browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Add potatoes to the pot along with the stock. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for an hour.
Off heat using a stick blender, or in a food processor, puree the soup. I like to leave it a bit chunky, especially the bacon. Stir in the cream and all but 1 Tbsp. of the parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Warm over medium heat until piping but not boiling. Serve garnished with the reserved parsley.