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Creamy green pea and potato soup offers hope, comfort

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(Read caption) Pea and potato soup made fragrant with tarragon offers the hope of spring while providing warmth on its most blustery days.

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Spring in Chicago is being its usual capricious self. Warm, sunny days mix it up with cold, blustery, rain-filled stretches. The range of our outerwear this time of year says it all. Leather jackets, sport coats, shirt sleeves, raincoats and, sadly, even our down parkas all see action.

It’s the same story in the kitchen. Longer days and soft breezes have us longing for fresh asparagus and other tastes of spring. Sudden blasts of cold send us running for comfort food. This soup delivers both. The sweet, green flavor of peas is filled with promise; the thick, hearty, potato-rich base soothes even on an unseasonably chilly night.

I’m normally not a huge fan of peas – unless they’re fresh peas which we often shell and devour on the way home from the store. But the peas in the deconstructed chicken pot pies I cooked a couple of weeks ago reminded me how much they taste like spring. The cold reality of springtime in Chicago, on the other hand, called for the comfort of a hearty potato soup. I decided to put them together.

Many green pea and potato soup recipes call for puréeing everything. While I like some creamed soups – especially vichyssoise – I generally prefer some recognizable chunks in mine. By puréeing only some of it, you get a nice creamy soup with actual stuff in it.

Creamy Green Pea and Potato Soup
Serves 4

2 tablespoons unsalted butter 

2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, sliced into thin half moons

1 teaspoon dried tarragon

1 clove garlic, minced

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3 cups reduced sodium chicken broth

2 cups water (plus more as needed)

1-1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (about 3 large potatoes) peeled and cut into a bite-sized pieces

2 cups frozen peas

Freshly ground pepper

Salt, if needed

1. Melt butter in a large, heavy stock pot or Dutch oven over medium flame. Add leeks and sweat until tender, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid browning. Clear a space in the middle of the pot and add tarragon and garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 45 seconds, stirring constantly. Add broth and 2 cups of water and stir to combine.

2. Add potatoes and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until potatoes are tender, at least 20 minutes. Stir in peas and cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

3. Carefully purée 2 to 3 cups of the soup (see Kitchen Notes) in a food processor or blender, working in batches, if necessary. Return to pot and stir to combine. Season with black pepper. Taste and add salt, if needed (depending on the saltiness of your broth, you may not need it). If soup is too thick, thin slightly with water. Reheat until warmed through and serve.

Kitchen Notes

The thick and the thin of it. I say in the recipe to purée 2 to 3 cups of the soup. I did 3, which made the soup velvety thick. You can do less if you prefer a “soupier” soup. You can also adjust overly thick soup by adding a little water, milk or even half and half. Adding milk or half and half will give it a richer, creamier flavor.

Make it vegetarian. You can do this by substituting vegetable broth for the chicken broth—or even water. In either case, I would add a little soy sauce to approximate the umami taste the chicken broth delivers.

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