This is an old family recipe that I just recently learned from my aunt. When my aunt makes it, she keeps all of the elements separate—the leek broth in one pot, rice in another pot, chopped spinach in a bowl and grated cheese in another bowl—and assembles small batches of the soup as needed. If you are serving a lot of people at once, you can add all of the spinach to the leek broth, but be sure to keep the rice or pasta separate—it will soak up all of the broth after a night in the fridge. Finally, I know Edam and Gouda cheese sound odd for soup, but I actually prefer them to Parmigiano Reggiano here. Worth trying if you are up for it. Also, I prefer this soup with rice over pasta, but use what you like. —Alexandra Stafford
8 to 10
leeks (depending on size, up to 8)
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Parmigiano Reggiano rind (optional)
chicken stock, preferably homemade
cooked rice or pasta (see notes above)
spinach, pulsed in food processor until it resembles roughly chopped parsley
Thinly slice all of the leeks and place in a large bowl filled with cold water. Let stand for five minutes to allow any dirt to settle to the bottom.
Place butter and olive oil in large soup pot over low heat. Scoop out leeks from bowl of water and place in pot—any water clinging to the leeks is just fine. Season with a big pinch of salt. Cover pan and cook for ten minutes. Remove lid and continue cooking over low to medium-low heat for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until leeks are soft and have shrunk down considerably. The leeks shouldn't begin to brown or get caramelized; they should be soft and giving up lots of liquid.
Add cheese rind (if you have one) and 6 cups of the chicken stock. Let simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper. Add up to 2 more cups of chicken stock if necessary. (If your leeks are big and/or you've used 8 of them, you might need the extra 2 cups.)
At this point, you have a few options. If you're making the soup for a crowd, you can add all of the spinach to the pot at once. (If not, you might want to keep the spinach separate—it quickly loses its bright green hue once it enters the broth.) If you're making a small batch of soup, just heat a small amount of broth in a separate pot with however much spinach you would like.
Add cooked rice or pasta to individual soup bowls. Ladle leek broth overtop. Pass salt, pepper, freshly grated Edam, Gouda or Parmigiano Reggiano, and lemon on the side. Serve with crusty bread.