Cookbook Mania! Paul Bocuse’s French Cooking–Potage Parmentier

by Sarah on March 8, 2010

Lookit what I got when I went to Powell’s Books!  Um, you know about Powell’s, don’t you?  It’s the finest, the grandest, the most first-rate book store….the MECCA of bookstores, if you will.  Powell’s Books takes up one whole city block and several floors…they sell new and used books….they have a rare book room… and the food section is huge!  I MUST visit Powell’s whenever I’m in Portland, and it’s always the same–my suitcase is filled with books on the return trip.  This particular trip the books took half the suitcase, and thankfully Southwest didn’t charge me any extra for the added weight, although I’m pretty positive my bag was well over 50 pounds.  If you can’t make it to Portland, Oregon to visit in person, check out their website–apparently their entire inventory is there, which seems mindblowing, to say the least.

The book below is by Paul Bocuse–have you heard of him?  Well, he’s ONLY a 3-starred Michelin chef, the winner of the Commandeur de la Légion d’honneur, and is the namesake for the Olympics of the food world, the Bocuse d’Or.  He’s pretty much a superstar.  And he happens to be from Lyon, the same town as our illustrious William Rolle, of Cafe Rolle, right here in little ol’ Sacramento.  This book is like French food 101.  I can’t wait to delve more into it, you know, when I actually have 2 functioning hands.

But for now, I think we’ll start off with something simple.  It sure as heck tasted fantastic though, simple or no.  Potage Parmentier.  Or a puree of potatoes and leeks with milk and cream.  So look, this has chicken broth, but if you’re of the vegetarian type, use water or veg stock.

First, you gotta chop and clean those leeks.  I like this method of cleaning—chop them up and let them soak in cold water for a while.  All the sand and junk will sink to the bottom.  Then just scoop them up out of the water.  Since we’re sauteeing these in butter, you’ll want to try to get them pretty dry.

Peel and quarter your potatoes.  You want mealy potatoes for this, not the waxy kind.  That means russets or Idaho potatoes.

Melt the butter and add the leeks.  Cook over low heat until they’re very soft.

Like so.  They’ll look like they’ve deflated.

Add the potatoes, and pour in one of those 32-oz boxes of stock, or the equivalent of vegetable broth or even just water.  You’ll notice that there are few photos of me actually pouring stuff while the photo is being taken because of the whole one-handed thing.

We’re just going to let this stuff cook for about 20-30 minutes, until the vegetables are quite soft.

Chef Bocuse would have us “strain through cheesecloth, pushing the leeks through”.  This is not what happened here.

  1. I’m too lazy
  2. I have one hand at the moment
  3. I’m too lazy
  4. I have a food mill

At first I put the super fine food mill holey thing on but it took forever.  I swapped it out for the one with larger hole and it worked fantastically.  And the stuff was just as pureed.

Just kind of looks like mashed potatoes.  Hmm.

I’m veering again from the Bocuse recipe.  I put the pureed mixture back in with the stock—it seemed like a waste.

Dairy products!  We’re going to use a fair amount of them at this time.

Pour a bunch of milk and less cream into the soup, until it’s the consistency that you desire.  That’s the actual instructions.  If you make this ahead of time, it will thicken and you’ll have to add even more milk the next day.

Now it’s time to season.  This soup will take quite a lot of salt–it’s just potatoes, you know?  Anyway, add it in stages so that you don’t oversalt.  Add a pinch, stir and taste; add more, etc.  Add some pepper too, while you’re at it.  You can use white pepper if you have a thing about black specks in white food like Julia.  I think black pepper tastes better so that’s what I use.

Beurre-Manie.  You familiar with it?  It’s French for “kneaded butter”—a sort of a dough made of equal parts butter and flour, kneaded together and used for thickening sauces and soups without causing lumps.  We’re going to make it here.  I’ve got about a Tbsp of unsalted butter, and the same amount of flour.

And there it is, all mixed together.

While we made that, our soup came up to a “boil”—-some gloppy bubbles made their way to the top—and now is the time to add the beurre manie, a small piece at a time.  Stir through and turn off the flame.

Let’s make the garnish!  Chef Bocuse wants croutons.  Chef says to fry them in a pan with butter, but I’m making a mess of croutons so I’m going to do it in the oven.  Cut a baguette into pieces, lay on a sheet pan and drizzle them with melted butter.  You can also use a mixture of good olive oil and melted butter and you can put some herbs or a bit of garlic in if you are so inclined.  Bake these in a 425* oven for about 5-10 minutes–but you better check them every couple of minutes and toss them around with your tongs so they don’t burn or get too hard on one side.

These are done.  You see they are slightly browned but not dark.  You don’t want them so hard you can’t bite through them!

Chef Bocuse calls for garnishing with a few croutons and chopped chervil.  There’s no chervil in my garden (it croaked) and the store didn’t have any either.  Since the flavor of chervil is like parsley, with a slight anise flavor, I chopped some parsley with a little bit of tarragon and had the same effect.  The fresh herbs on top I think, were crucial to bring some freshness to the finished dish.

Chef Bocuse also finished the soup with a bit of creme fraiche, but I didn’t have any of that either.  Nor sour cream, so I just omitted it.  The extra tang would’ve been welcomed, in my opinion, but my dining companions didn’t seem to know the difference.

And there you have it.  You’ve just made a Michelin 3-starred chef’s recipe.  Don’t you feel comme un chef supérieur?

*adapted from Paul Bocuse’s French Cooking*

Paul Bocuse’s Potage Parmentier (Potato and Leek Soup)


  • 4 leeks, white and light green parts only--cleaned, chopped and dried
  • 2 lbs mealy potatoes, such as Idaho or russet--peeled and cut into quarters
  • 6 Tbsp butter (preferably unsalted)
  • 1-32 oz box of chicken stock (or equal amount of veg stock or water)
  • Milk, approximately 2 cups
  • Heavy cream, approximately 1 cup
  • 2 Tbsp beurre manie (1 Tbsp each butter and flour, kneaded together)
  • Creme fraiche or sour cream for garnish
  • chopped chervil (or parsley and tarragon) for garnish
  • Croutons for garnish (1 baguette and 4 Tbsp butter)


  • Croutons for garnish (1 baguette and 4 Tbsp butter)
  • Melt 4 Tbsp butter in a Dutch oven. Add the leeks and cook over low heat until they are very soft, but not browned, about 10 minutes. Add the potatoes and the stock or water. Cook for 20-30 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.
  • Using a spider or slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a food mill, leaving the liquid in the Dutch oven. Puree using the food mill. If you do not have a food mill, you can use Paul Bocuse's method of pushing the vegetables through a cheesecloth or a strainer.
  • Place the puree back in the Dutch oven with remaining liquid and place back on the stovetop over low heat. Add milk to the consistency that you desire--I used approximately 2 cups. I also used some heavy cream, about a cup. Bring just to a boil. Add the beurre manie, small pieces at a time. Turn off the flame.
  • To serve: Ladle soup in bowls and garnish with a tsp of creme fraiche or sour cream, a few croutons and fresh herbs (either chervil or a mixture of parsley and tarragon).
  • To make croutons: Cut the baguette into uniform pieces and lay them onto a baking sheet. Melt 4 Tbsp butter (or a mixture of good olive oil and butter) and pour over the baguette pieces. Toss the bread cubes in the butter. Bake at 425* for 5-10 minutes, checking and tossing them often so that they do not burn or become too browned.

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