Beer writers rarely wear tuxedos; it’s not their natural garb. But in my photo collection is a picture of Matt Stinchfield, puckish behind square-rimmed glasses, seemingly comfortable in a penguin suit at a reception for Prince Luitpold, the brewer prince of Bavaria.
At other times, Matt has been found among the other beer judges at the GABF, or consulting breweries about safety. But in the world of beer and food, Matt is also known as The Palate Jack: “writer, brewer, beer judge, gourmand and sympathetic traveler.” His current projects include a series of cookbooks on beer-friendly food, and he drops recipes and philosophy at palatejack.wordpress.com.
Intrigued, I googled “palate jack” and found instead “pallet jack”—a lift for moving pallets. So I wrote Matt with a guess: had he, as a safety consultant citing a brewery for unsecured heavy machinery, suddenly been struck by how clever the term could be if spelt differently?
Matt answered: “You surmised that Palate Jack comes from Pallet Jack, in terms of elevating or lifting something, in this case your palate! But “jack” is also a clever term, as in “jack of all trades” or a knave. A Québécoise friend told me that in her patois, “un bon jack” means a good guy. So, on a lot of levels I’m, shall we say, ‘the good jack of all trades that elevates the taste experience for your palate.’ Longwinded, but there it is.”
And very rich, but here it is: a velvety beer-tinged cream soup. —JJ
Potato Leek Soup
From The Palate Jack
- 4 medium to large leeks
- 2 pounds russet potatoes
- 1/4 cup lardons, lean salt pork, ham, salt-cured, not smoked
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, divided
- 1 1/2 cups gueze (un-fruited vintage lambic blend, one 325-355 ml bottle)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 sprig thyme
- 1 teaspoon fresh chives
1. Prepare the leeks by trimming and discarding the roots and most of the green tops, rinsing to remove all grit, and chopping finely into 1/4” pieces. Divide leeks evenly, reserving one half.
2. Peel potatoes and dice into 1/2” cubes; reserve under water in a large bowl to avoid browning.
3. In a 4-quart saucepan, heat 3 quarts water to boiling. In a separate large soup pot of at least 6 quarts capacity, melt 1/4 cup of butter and slowly heat the lardons to render their fat. Avoid overly darkening the lardons. Remove the lardons with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels, and reserve. Add half of the chopped leeks to the butter and cook on medium heat until soft, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid browning. Deglaze with the bottle of gueuze. Drain the peeled potatoes and add to the pot. Add the boiling water, bay leaf, salt and white pepper. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, until the potatoes are falling apart and the leeks are very tender.
4. While the soup is cooking, sauté the reserved leeks in the remaining butter until soft, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
5. Back to the soup, remove and discard the bay leaves, then carefully purée the hot soup in a blender in batches until smooth. You may have to jockey pots to accomplish this, but you should end up with the puréed soup and the sautéed leeks in the same pot. Taste for seasoning and correct salt and pepper if needed. If the soup is too thin, reduce with constant stirring until consistency is that of a thick sauce.
6. Stir in the cooked lardons, cream, and thyme. Heat soup through and serve immediately with chopped chives as a garnish.
Tomorrow: Move over, turkey, and make way for the Thanksgiving goose, speaking German and basted with beer.