Sunday, March 6, 2011

Cock-a-Leekie Soup

One of the pitfalls of being a graduate student is having weeks where your work overload just becomes too much.  Last week was one of those weeks.  (You know you have a problem when the head of the department tells you that you look tired and stressed.)  So, unfortunately, I had to skip updating the blog.

"I'm making Cock-a-Leekie soup."  "What???"  "Cock-a-Leekie soup."  "Watch your mouth!"

Back in November, I made Cock-a-Leekie soup, one that I expected to be great for the graduate student lifestyle because the Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook says that it is "as economical as it is delicious."  There's a lot of chopping to do to prep this soup so I highly recommend doing it the night before and sticking it in the fridge (as you can see I did).

I chopped the leeks, potatoes, onion and boneless, skinless chicken breasts ahead of time (of course, the recipe called for boneless, skinless chicken thighs, but as you know, I prefer chicken breasts).  So, in the morning I was able to just throw everything into the crock pot.  To the ingredients that I prepped the night before, I added barley, parsley, and a bay leaf.  The recipe calls for a Turkish bay leaf or half of a California bay leaf, but I honestly didn't care enough about the difference in order to care to buy new bay leafs and I actually just threw in one whole bay leaf from the grocery store.

You can add either chicken broth or water to this recipe.  In this case, I already had some chicken broth from a previous recipe, so I used that.  Honestly, if I hadn't already had the chicken broth, I probably would have used water, but I'm sure the chicken broth adds a lot of flavor so it all worked out in this case.  After adding the broth or water you just stir it all together and let it cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.  Thus, it's a perfect one to turn on when you're heading out the door and then just turn off when you get home in the evening.

This is what the soup looked like before I turned it on.

And this is what it looked like after cooking.

Once the soup is done cooking, you add salt and pepper (though I did not add the salt) and stir it again.  You're supposed to serve it with a splash of Worcestershire sauce, and topped with chopped prunes and parsley.  Now, the chopped parsley as a garnish didn't last as long as the soup itself did, but having it with just the prunes and the Worcestershire sauce was still good.  The soup, by itself, does not have all that much flavor, but the Worcestershire sauce adds a kick to it and the prunes add some sweetness.  I ended up adding more and more of each every time I served it and they became less of a garnish and more of the part of the soup.

So, in terms of the original claim that the soup is "as economical as it is delicious," I would agree with the "delicious" claim, but only as long as it is served with the Worcestershire sauce and prunes.  The cookbook says that it serves 4 to 5, but I definitely got a lot more servings out of it.  It was a long time ago, but I think I actually ended up getting 8 servings overall.  So, in terms of cost, the only really expensive item is the chicken, especially if you go with store brands for the bay leaves, chicken broth, prunes, and Worcestershire sauce.  Thus, even counting in the chicken broth and the items that I did not have to buy because I already had them, this comes out to about $3.00/serving.  (Though, as I cooked it, it was only about $2.12/serving!)  So, I guess Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann are right to claim that it is "as economical as it is delicious."  Health-wise, the soup comes out to about 185 calories per serving before you add in the prunes and Worcestershire sauce, which would add probably 65-85 more calories per serving, depending on how generous you are with the prunes.  Either way, it's under 300 calories per serving, and makes for a filling meal alongside a salad.