Make-It-Up Monday: Potato and Leek Soup with Chicken and Mushrooms

Mondays are hard.

The last thing anyone wants to do after a full day at work is come home and make a complicated, three course meal involving so many ingredients and prep bowls and pans that you run out of room on the kitchen counters. Slow cooker leftovers make weeknight cooking a breeze, but the enthusiasm for a dish can wear off after having the same meal (or a version of it) two nights in a row, so Monday night means coming up with something new.

But no need to stress. I use Monday night as the time to clean out the fridge and pantry and turn it all into an easy, delicious meal. Just take a look at what you have and get creative -- but not too crazy, it's Monday after all. Have leftover roast chicken? Frozen veggies? Crescent roll dough or biscuit mix? Turn it into a Monday night version of Chicken Pot Pie. Too much cooked spinach or veggies left over from your weekend trip to the farmers' market? Whisk together some eggs and butter and cheese, add the spinach and some sautéed onions and maybe a splash of cream, and make a Monday night Quiche. Leftover meatloaf? Chop it up and gently warm in your favorite tomato sauce, then server over pasta -- Monday night Spaghetti and Meat(loaf)balls. You get the idea, yes?

Tonight, we're having a Monday night version of Potato and Leek Soup, but with a twist. I had onion left over from the Slow Cooker Chicken Chili with Sweet Potato and Peppers, and a leek and mushrooms from my latest organic box delivery. The chicken was in the freezer, and the spices and stock were in the pantry.

Tip: To thaw frozen meat quickly, keep in plastic packaging or put in a freezer bag, and place in a bowl full of cold water. Pour out the water after about 5 mins and refill the bowl. After about 3-4 refills, the chicken should be thawed.

Once I had my ingredients, I went to work on my basic routine for making a soup/stew -- heat butter or oil in a large pot, soften onions/garlic/leeks, add other veggies in order of how long it will take them to cook starting with the longest (potatoes), add some liquid to aid in cooking, brown your meat (or don't), add it, some seasonings and more liquid, then cover. Let the magic of Monday night cookery do the rest.

Potato and Leek Soup with Chicken and Mushrooms

Monday Night, Done Right!
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 leek, washed and chopped (white end only)
  • 3 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 handfuls of wild mushrooms (mixed types), cleaned and chopped
  • 3 large boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cubed
  • Olive oil
  • Herbes de Provence
  • Salt/Pepper to taste
To Do:
  • Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat, then add in the onion, garlic and leeks and cook until tender. 
  • Stir in the potatoes and 1/2 of the stock and simmer uncovered until liquid starts to thicken, about 5-10 minutes. 
  • Add in the mushrooms and continue to simmer.
  • In the meantime, brown the chicken in a medium pan with a bit of olive oil, then drain and set aside. Note: don't cook through -- just brown it.
  • Add in the chicken, remaining stock and TBS or so of the HdP and heaping pinches of S/P
  • Cover and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the stock is velvety and thick (the starch in the potatoes will help with this). Ideally, let it simmer on low at least another 15 minutes -- 20 if you have the time. You can test the chicken after 15 min, and if it is tender and juicy, it's time to turn off the heat and remove the pot to a cool burner. If not, give it a few minutes more.
  • Serve with crusty bread, some nice cheeses (Manchego, Bleu, Aged Gouda, etc.) and maybe a simple salad of butter lettuce or arugula wtih diced heirloom tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil and splash of red wine vinegar.

Monday night dinner? No problem.