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Basque Potato Leek Soup with Cod and Crispy Serrano Ham

I am Back!!

I have been sick since mid April, hence my absence from the blog. I bet you thought I had quit, didn't you?

After a lengthy bout with some sort of lung plague, I am finally emerging from the fog and forced myself to get in the kitchen today. Okay, I have been in the kitchen but it's been all grilled cheese sammies, frozen potstickers and soup, mostly made by The Kid as I croaked out instructions from my sick bed on the couch, Netflix droning on in the background.

I have a Supper Club coming up and the first course will be a version of this Basque style Leek and Potato Soup with Cod and Serrano Ham so it seemed like it was as good a time as any to whip up a batch and make sure it is as delicious as I recall.

It is.

The Traditional Soup, called Porrusalda, if often made with cod but you would normally add a whack of reconstituted salt cod and cook it IN the broth for a chunk, rustic soup. It's absolutely delicious and homey and wonderful but I need an elegant presentation for my Supper Club. I turned to fresh Atlantic cod and fried it for a bit of colour and texture and threw on some crispy serrano ham for some crunch and a hit of salt.

The finished soup is elegant enough for a dinner party and because you can make the ham and the soup ahead of time, it's pretty easy to just fry up the fish and throw it all together at the last minute. All in all, it was a sexy little dish that managed to lure me back into the kitchen.

Basque Potato Leek Soup with Crispy Cod and Serrano Ham

soup recipe makes about 10 cups of soup and serves 6

1/3 cup olive oil
3 leeks, white part only, cleaned, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/2" slices
4 large cloves of garlic, peeled
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cubed ( approx 700g)
230 g (1/2 lb) butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 litres (2 quarts) chicken stock or a mix of stock and water
5 or 6 sprigs of fresh thyme
pinch saffron
kosher salt and black pepper
680g (1.5 lb) fresh cod cut into 6 portions
approx 57 g (2 oz) serrano ham (use proscuitto if you can't find serrano)
handful of fresh Italian parsely to garnish
extra olive oil for cooking the cod and for drizzling over the finished soup

Put the pinch of saffron into about 1/4 cup of warm water and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot and saute the leeks until they soften. Add in the garlic, the potatoes and the squash and saute for another five minutes before adding the chicken stock and the saffron water. Bring to a simmer, put the lid on, turn down the heat to medium low and let simmer gently for about 40 minutes.

 While the soup is cooking, crisp up the ham. Preheat the oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and lay the ham flat on the parchment and bake until the meat turns golden, about 15 minutes. Using tongs, carefully transfer the ham to paper towels to drain. You will break each piece in to a few pieces to use for the soup.

When the soup is done, you can either use an immersion blender or puree the soup in a blender (after you fish out the thyme stalks, of course) - if using a blender, be very careful as hot soup tends to cause the lid to blow off. Hold the lid on with a folded tea towel to prevent that from happening. Depending on how fancy you want the soup to be, you can either serve it as is or you can pass it through a chinois or a metal strainer for a thinner, more elegant soup.

Meanwhile, dry the cod with paper towel and heat a frying pan over med/high heat. Drizzle some olive oil in the pan and add the cod. Salt and pepper the fish and fry for about 5 minutes. Very carefully, use a spatula to flip the fish and let cook on the other side for just a couple of minutes before you remove the fish from the pan.

Pour about 1.5 cups of soup into shallow bowls, lay a piece of cod in the middle, top with a couple pieces of ham and drizzle a bit of olive oil around the soup.

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