On St. Patrick’s Day—or any day— this potato leek soup recipe bridges the gap between winter and spring in Northern Michigan.

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“You can turn any occasion into a party,” my mother-in-law once told me as I turned up the reggae and poured her some bubbles. We were celebrating her maiden voyage on our “new” daysailer—a roadside find my husband and I were proud to share with his parents. I thought about her statement for weeks. I’ve long turned life’s little milestones into bigger ones—a trait that is especially true in the winter months. Between Halloween and Easter, nearly any holiday that comes on a printed calendar gets a special meal. Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day, Fat Tuesday and St. Patrick’s Day come to mind. I love the excuse to cook something I’ve never made before and enjoy making an average day feel, well, above average.

As life has gotten increasingly complex, it’s occurred to me that dropping this rhythm would be one way to simplify—but turning a weeknight into a special occasion makes darker winter evenings more interesting. On March 17, I always make something from the Irish cooking canon. Some years it’s been Dublin Coddle, Irish soda bread or my mother’s recipe for corned beef and cabbage. The option that’s best for anyone who needs to remember to keep it simple, however, is potato leek soup. While it may not be the most traditional Irish recipe (the Welsh, Scottish and French also claim the dish as their own), it’s supremely comforting with very little work.

Potato Leek Soup

Photo by Dave Weidner

Potato Leek Soup

Photo by Dave Weidner

In this month of the vernal equinox, a bowl of potatoes, cream and leeks is simultaneously warming during our still-cold days, yet also signals spring. In March, I get this green, early-spring allium from my local neighborhood grocer, but as the season advances, this could just as easily be made with wild leeks from the forest. The recipe can even slide into summer if it’s served chilled—which makes it vichyssoise.

No matter how many seasons you slurp it in, I suggest starting by bridging that long-awaited gap between winter and spring. Now, to turn something so easy into a party, you’ll need to crank up an Irish jig and pour someone a stout.

Potato Leek Soup

Photo by Dave Weidner

Potato Leek Soup Recipe
Makes 10 cups

  • 4 Tablespoons Irish butter such as Kerrygold
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3 leeks, white and pale end sliced, about 3 cups
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 4 large russet potatoes, about 2 pounds, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cups milk or cream
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • fresh chives

1. To a thick-bottomed stockpot over medium-low heat, add butter, onion, leeks and celery. Sauté until soft and translucent, about 15 minutes. Slide the potato into the pot and add the stock, stirring to incorporate. Turn the heat up to medium and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook until a piece of potato breaks apart when pierced with a fork.

2. Remove soup from the heat. Using a hand blender or working in batches with a regular blender, whiz the mixture until it is a smooth purée. Return to low heat and add the milk, stirring until the soup is warm throughout without letting the milk get too hot. Season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve with minced chives.

Potato Leek Soup

Photo by Dave Weidner

Stacey Brugeman is a Leelanau County-based food and beverage writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Food & Wine, Saveur, Travel + Leisure, Eater and Denver’s 5280, where she served as Restaurant Critic. Follow her on Instagram @staceybrugeman.

Photo(s) by Dave Weidner