Saturday, August 9, 2014

Creamy Hot Crab DIp


Creamy Crab Dip on Crackers
                                       
OK, this is a "treat" kind of recipe, I know. However, my husband recently had a birthday and I'd saved some crab meat in the freezer from when we'd picked crabs back in July. So it was a given that I make the King some Crab Dip! I can tell you, picking crabs to save the meat is a true labor of love. I had to pick 12 crabs to get 1/2 pound of clean crab meat! We'd picked all the "big" ones while we were eating them, so I was left with the ones that everyone picks up, experimentally weighs by lifting them over the pile and then drops them back on the pile while they search out another heavier one. If you've never had or picked Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs read all about it in my post here from Father's Day 2012.

This crab dip has more than great taste for us, it also holds great memories. I catered our wedding myself (yes I know that is crazy, but I was on a budget) and crab dip featured hugely in the spread we set out. In addition, it's made an appearance at every Christmas party we've ever had, and we've had a few. It's not quite as ubiquitous as my husbands famous Shrimp Dip, but almost. (That shrimp dip is a story for another blog, another time.) Let me also say that the recipe you see here is much lighter than the original one, which included an entire stick of butter, as well as whole fat sour cream and cream cheese. I honestly don't miss the additional fat, it still tastes creamy and rich to me.

Enough talk, here it is, in all it's glory. Fabulous, creamy Crab Dip. I've written the recipe for a whole pound but it's easily halved or doubled. If the picture doesn't look like it's much, it's because I've halved it. I must say, that this recipe will make a little bit of crab meat go a LONG way!

Crab dip saute'ed with butter
Creamy Crab Dip 
1 pound crab meat, picked clean
1 tsp. finely minced garlic
5 T. salted butter
1 T. lemon juice             
1 dash Worcestershire sauce                
8 oz. light cream cheese
8 oz. light sour cream
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 T. dry sherry
1 cup grated Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Have your butter and cream cheese at room temperature. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat and add minced garlic. Saute' the garlic for a few minutes until it begins to soften (not brown!) and add the creab meat, folding it into the butter/garlic mixture until completely combined. Add the lemon juice and stir it in. Next fold in the softened cream cheese. I find it easier to do if you score the block into smaller squares so that they incorporate more evenly. 
Add the cream cheese and stir until the crab and cream cheese are totally mixed together.

Now stir in the sour cream, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper and dry sherry, making sure that all ingredients are well combined. Regarding the cayenne, 1/4 tsp will make the dip mildly hot, 1/2 tsp will give it just a little kick. If you don't like things hot at all you can sub Old Bay Seasoning or plain paprika. 

Dry Sherry, be SURE to buy DRY Sherry! 
Lastly, fold in most of the cheddar, saving a little to sprinkle on top. Transfer the dip into a baking dish that has been sprayed lightly with cooking spray. OR if you plan to make this for a big group, and need to keep the dip hot for a longer time,  put the dip into the serving vessel of your chafing dish. That's the way I serve this special dish when I am having a lot of different appetizers for a holiday party (or a wedding reception!). Sprinkle the reserved cheddar over the top of the crab. At this point, you can bake it immediately for 30 minutes at 350 degrees or refrigerate it (covered) for up to two days and then bake it when you  need it (be sure to bring it to room temperature by setting the casserole out on the counter for at least 20 minutes before putting into a hot over.)

Hot baked Crab Dip! 
Serve with assorted crackers or toast points.We like a combination of crackers, like Triscuits, Club and Whole Wheat. Toast points are good as well, but a little more trouble. No matter how you do it, it's delicious! 

Makes at least 10 appetizer servings. Now, go and find something to celebrate! 
CELEBRATE!


Monday, July 7, 2014

Zucchini Gratin



Zucchini Gratin, inspired by Ina Garten

Our celebration for July 4th involved a cookout with a few friends, very low key this year. Ribs were prepared, and we each brought a side dish, easy on me, easy on the hostess. My contribution to the meal was a zucchini gratin. The reason for the zucchini dish is simple -- we have been the recipients of LOTS of zucchini. I'd made a huge pot of ratatouille ( You can find my recipe here.) earlier in the week, and we still had those leftovers in the refrigerator.

I decided to make a different casserole to take along. I found the original gratin recipe HERE on the Food Network website, by Ina Garten. I love her take on most recipes, but sometimes I  find them to be very rich, and they often include some rather expensive ingredients. This recipe for Zucchini Gratin included Gruyere cheese. I looked for it at my big box store, hoping for a bargain, but no such luck. I think they had every kind of cheese, except Gruyere. I then went to our least expensive grocery store, and they had it, cut into 7 oz. chunks, for $9.99. Yes, that is correct, less than 1/2 a lb. for $9.99. I hightailed it over to the domestic cheese refrigerated case and purchased a humble block of Swiss cheese for around $4 per pound. I also used less butter than Ina and I used 1% lowfat milk, instead of the full fat she favors. In addition, I was too lazy to make fresh bread crumbs, so I used plain ones from the pantry. AND GUESS WHAT? It was delicious.

So, I can honestly say, thanks, Ina, for the wonderful inspiration. The flavor was very delicate and had a slightly sweet taste, probably a combination of the onions and fresh ground nutmeg. Don't omit the nutmeg, and use freshly grated if you possibly can, it makes a huge difference! And if you want to spring for the Gruyere cheese, go for it! This dish looked great, tasted delicious, and wasn't that bad for us. It also cooked up quickly, after a fairly easy morning prep.

Will I make it again? Absolutely. And the 6 eaters at the party ate almost every bit of it, the truest test of all: Crowd approval. There was a little bit of a small serving leftover, but that didn't last long.....just sayin'.

Zucchini and onions in the pan,
milk poured over, thickening. 
 Zucchini Gratin

4 T. butter, divided use
2 lbs. zucchini, washed and cut into 1/8" rounds
3 large yellow onions, halved and sliced into half moons
3 T. flour
1/4 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg
1 cup low fat milk
1 cup grated Swiss Cheese
3/4 cup plain bread crumbs
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Butter or spray with cooking spray a 13 X 9" casserole. 

In a large, heavy skillet, melt 3 T. butter and add the onion. Saute' the onion for 10 - 15 minutes over medium to low heat, until soft and just starting to caramelize. Add the zucchini and stir until combined with the onion. Cook for another 10 minutes. Add the salt and pepper and sprinkle the zucchini with the flour. Gently stir the flour into the vegetables until the flour is absorbed, with no white, dry flour showing. Add the milk and turn the heat up. Continue to stir gently, so you don't break up the zucchini. Bring the mixture to a boil, while it makes a sauce and thickens. As soon as it thickens, turn off the heat. 

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. 

Pour the zucchini/onion mixture to the prepared casserole, spreading it in an even layer. Mix the grated Swiss cheese with the breadcrumbs and sprinkle evenly over the top of the vegetables. Dot the topping with the remaining 1 T. butter, cut into small pieces. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, until brown and bubbly. Serves 6 - 8. 

Zucchini Gratin, hot and browned from the oven.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Pork Chile Verde

Chile Verde Soft Tacos with Jalapeno Slaw
Can you take another Mexican-style slow cooker recipe? I feel like I can never have too many of them. Not only are they generally easy to make and very budget friendly, they are also pretty healthy and taste delicious! I spotted some good looking tomatillos in the grocery store this week, and had some leftover pork roast, and this is what I came up with: Chile Verde.  For those of you who've read my blog and know that I like to cook and experiment around the kitchen, let me say right up front, THIS DISH IS A WINNER! The flavors were so darn good, it was hard to believe it started out with leftovers! Give this I try, I promise you WON'T be disappointed!

I got the original recipe from a cousin and made it once, as she suggested, with beef chuck roast. I served it at one of my Halloween chili nights, but honestly, I felt like it needed something. I loved the shredded meat texture, and so did all the folks at the chili fest. I thought,  "Next time, I'll try it with pork and change it up a little."  The best addition was, I believe, "Chipotle en Adobo" chilies. They are readily available in cans, you shouldn't have any problem finding them, If you are not familiar with them, they are smoked jalapenos in a spicy tomato sauce. Freeze the remaining peppers and sauce for later, they are great in chili, any spicy dish or sauce. Also, I think I skimped on the fresh cilantro the first time around. I was a little hesitant to add quite so much, but not this time. The cilantro made the dish really special!

First, I started with a pork roast. Here's how I make mine. Make sure to buy one big enough so that you'll have approximately 2 lbs. of pork leftover. I made my roast on Monday and threw the leftovers into the slow cooker on Friday. Here's my leftover piece of roast so you can judge the size you'll need:

Leftover pork roast, about 2 lbs. 
If you've never purchased a tomatillo, here's what you are looking for -- they look like tomatoes, but with a papery hull on the outside. They feel a little sticky when you remove the outer layer and stem, so wash them well. They should be firm, but not rock hard.
Tomatillos - 2 with hulls still on, 2 with hulls removed


Now, on the to the recipe!

Slow Cooker Pork Chile Verde
2 lb.s cooked pork, cut into chunks                                                           
Vegetable prep, onion, chilies and garlic
1 small can chopped green chilies
2 chipotle en adobo chilies, chopped and 2 tsp. of the sauce from the can
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
6 tomatillos, papery hull removed, washed and chopped ( I used my food processor)
1 heaping Tablespoon dry oregano
2 tsp. cumin
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 c. packed chopped fresh cilantro 
2 tsp. kosher salt 

For Serving:
Spicy Jalapeno Slaw (recipe here )
Shredded Cheddar or Jack Cheese
Soft Flour or Corn Tortillas
a few fresh cilantro leaves for topping the tacos

Chop everything up and throw it into your slow cooker. No need to mince it all carefully, the slow cooker does the work for you. You can see I left my onions kind of big. Didn't matter, the texture was great. I set my slow cooker on auto-shift, which means it started out on high and then switched over to lower heat. 
Chile Verde in the crock pot. It already smelled and looked yummy! 

I cooked the chile verde for 6 hours, stirred it vigorously to break up any large chunks of meat and then let it heat through again and served it. We ate ours like soft tacos, draining off a little of the juice and putting the mixture into soft flour tortillas. We topped it with some shredded cheddar cheese and spicy jalapeno slaw (recipe in this post ). It would be great served over corn chips or you could add 2 cans of beans and make it into more of a chili type stew. The flavor was SO darn good, you're going to want to make it again, I promise! Hhhmmmm....next time, I think I'll add those beans AND serve it over chips.......

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Feeding the Birds


WBU Small Tube Feeder
A few years ago, I began working for Wild Birds Unlimited of Richmond, VA. I do book work and office work, and help I them with their Facebook page (Find us on Facebook HERE). It's a nice place to work, close to home and they've got great stuff. I've always been a gardener and there are lots of garden goodies to look over. A side benefit of the job has proven to be that my husband and I have developed a hobby we both enjoy: Bird feeding and backyard bird watching. First I am going to share what I've learned over the years -  the seed at WBU is really fresh -- it comes in every week, and the birds LOVE it. One of my friends said that when she put seed from WBU in her feeder, as opposed to seed from the grocery store, it was like she was having a fancy dinner party. All the really "good" birds showed up! This comment has made me laugh for years -- I keep picturing birds arriving in limos and dressed in top hats. 

My husband has embraced our new hobby, and is quite good at identifying different birds. He's really gotten into it. This was brought home over the weekend when, early Saturday, the man himself  went out to fill our "main" bird feeder and found that the squirrels who frequent our back yard and torment our dogs had finally done what they seem driven to do -- they had broken off the 2 seed portals with perches so they could have easy and unlimited access to the seed blend we fill it with. He took the feeder off the pole but could only find one of the portal/perches. The devils must have absconded with the other one, carrying it off to their nest as a trophy. Or, whatever. The portal was gone.

"Look what the squirrels did!" he said in a hurt tone of voice. "The poor birds don't have any food and the feeder is ruined." The man was distressed. After spreading a few handfuls of bird seed on the ground, he was still upset. He kept muttering, "Poor birds!" and glaring at me like I'd broken the feeder.

"Don't worry" I told him. "I'll take it to work on Tuesday and get it fixed or get a new one." I felt OK with that. He didn't.

Round glass feeder from Wild BIrds Unlimited.
I put Bugberry Nuggets with Calcium in it.Apparently, he didn't.

Keep in mind that there are 2 other feeders in my years. They are more ornamental, but they are bird feeders! 

Treat Feeder from "Painted Seasons".
You can find them on Etsy. and HERE















By Sunday afternoon, I could take it no more. I hopped in my car and took the broken and now clean feeder up to the store . Two of my nice colleagues were watching the shop and more than happy to help me, because that's the way they are (really). The feeder was fixed in about 5 minutes and ready to return home.



"Is it free to me because I work here, or is it free to everyone?" I asked incredulously.

Yes, it is.  Free.  They'll fix it free (see limitations below).

If you purchase certain Wild Birds Unlimited branded feeders, they have a limited lifetime guarantee, for normal wear and tear. Now, if a deranged/enraged child, or, uh, husband, throws the feeder to the ground in a fit of anger,  and stomps it, that is not covered. However, under normal use, the feeder is covered for repairs. HERE'S a link that tells you exactly which feeders are covered, etc. I was so happy to find this out that I went and celebrated by purchasing more plants for my patio. What? WHAT? (That's what my husband said when he spied a box full of plants coming out of the back of my car.)

Now, what else do I need to plant out back? Maybe a few more pots filled with flowers? Perennials? Another hanging basket? Hhhhmmmmm......
Visit Wild Birds Unlimited of Richmond, VA HERE 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Spending Time in My Garden

If there is another household pastime I that enjoy as much as cooking, it's got to be spending time in my garden. I've got a nice patio with a somewhat cultivated strip of flowers and herbs around it. We put out lots of hanging baskets and potted plants and there's a border that runs around the back yard, that I am slowly filling with flowering bushes and perennial plants.
Here's one end of my patio. We like to sit out in the evening and if it's chilly, we can light the chiminea. That makes it almost year round here in central VA! I enjoy making the baskets. No cushions out today, because there is a chance of a quick storm. We had a doozy yesterday! 
Asian Lilies (pink), Golden Cosmos, Brown Eyed Susan, Cleomes and Daisies
This is my flower bed that runs along the other side of the patio, near the dining table. Over the years, I've planted so many different things and dumped bags and bags of cow manure on and now it kind of takes care of itself. I didn't plant any seeds in it this year and so far I've gotten native "Brown-eyed" Susans (as opposed to the cultivated "Black eyed Susan" you see in nurseries), daisies, golden cosmos, cleomes or spider lilies, Asian Lilies, daffodills, pink hollyhocks, lavender and ageratum. The Brown Eyed Susans simply appeared on their own, delivered no doubt by an accommodating bird!  
Ageratum, with it's fuzzy purple flowers. 
When the lilies finish and the Brown Eyed Susan dies back, during the heat of July and August, the ageratum fills in next to the golden cosmos.


Double Day-Lilies
I absolutely love day-lilies, and I've got them all over my back and front yards These are double orange ones, which never fail to bloom and delight me. I've got some golden ones too.
Yellow Day-Lilies

What do you grow in your garden? I've got a few herbs as well, by my little fountain. The birds love the fountain and so do we! It's so soothing to listen to! 
Herbs by the fountain
In this picture you can see my thyme, to the left, and the poor garlic chives that the recent storm flattened (but they'll perk back up). I've also got basil, flat leaf parsley, and lavender, just out of the shot. The hollyhocks (tall and pink spires) and cosmos come up wherever they want, I can't -- and don't want to -- control them! 
And here's one of the very best reasons to make a flower garden, bouquets of flowers in the house! 
Late Summer Bouquet from 2013 -- I didn't plant zinnias this year.....hmmm...maybe I should...

Monday, May 12, 2014

Manicotti with Meat Sauce

Manicotti with Meat Sauce, Salad and Garlic Bread- HEAVENLY! 
 My family loves my spaghetti sauce, and truth be told, I love red meat sauce. I've been making it and tweaking it since I was about 14 years old, and over the years, I've learned many things. Chief among them is that you need to let it cook for several hours, cool down and then cook it again. Growing up, this was one of the best things my mother made. She was not a great cook, but her sauce was GOOD! When my mom made it, she always made enough to freeze several batches so that we could have it for a couple of meals. We said back then that the spaghetti sauce was always better the second time, and I still believe that. It's something about letting it cool down that brings the sauce together. My sauce is different from my moms. She used garlic powder and oregano. I've updated the sauce with lots of fresh garlic and used basil instead of oregano. The meal I am writing about today is a round two meal, Manicotti with Meat Sauce.

What's the difference between manicotti and canneloni? Manicotti is a stuffed tube of pasta, either with meat or cheese, covered with a red sauce. Canneloni is a stuffed tube of pasta, usually covered with a white sauce. You can check out my Crab Cannelloni with Roasted Garlic Shrimp HERE . It's a delicious, company or special event dish that everyone who loves crab adores. The Manicotti I am writing about today  is a more family friendly, inexpensive type of meal, that most kids love. It has an added benefit as being perfect to make up ahead of time, either earlier in the day or a day or two ahead of time. AND you CAN make it and freeze it, for another time. This is a great dish to master. After all, what's not to love about tubes of pasta stuffed with cheese and covered in red sauce? In addition to being delicious, the sauce can be a lifesaver, frozen to have on hand for a busy day. First, let me tell you how I make it:

Midlo Mom's Meat Sauce
Serves at least 12
2 medium onions, diced
6 cloves minced garlic (2 heaping T.) or more if you like
1 T. olive oil
 1.25 lb lean ground beef
1/2 lb. meat loaf mixture (beef/pork/veal) OR 3 links mild Italian sausage, casings removed
1 28 oz. can Cento Whole Italian tomatoes,  or any San Marzano type
3 - 16 oz cans Hunts tomato sauce
1 6 oz. can Hunts Tomato Paste
1/2 c. dry red wine
6 oz. water
1 dried bay leaf
1 heaping tsp. kosher salt
2 Tablespoons dried basil
1/2 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
1 tsp. sugar
(**a few shakes of red pepper flakes if your family likes things spicy, totally optional)
In a large pot, heat olive oil and add both kinds of meat, over medium-high heat. Stir constantly to break up meat and brown it. When it begins to brown add the onions and cook until the onions start to become translucent. Add the garlic and stir it into the meat/onion mixture. Add the whole tomatoes, crushing them with your hands as they go into the pot (don't let any huge pieces slop though your fingers! :). Next, add the 3 cans of tomato sauce, salt, pepper, sugar and red wine. Divide the water between the the three empty cans of tomato sauce and "rinse" them out, adding that liquid to the sauce. Sprinkle the basil over the pot and add the bay leaf. Stir the sauce to combine, and bring it to a full boil. Turn it down and let it cook- covered - for at least 2 hours on a simmer, stirring occasionally to make sure it isn't sticking. After an hour, add the tomato paste and stir it into the sauce, and bring it back to a boil. Turn it down again and let it cook another hour. You may taste the sauce at this point if you like, but it will not yet have reached it's full potential.
Turn the sauce off and either refrigerate it for 2 hours or divide into containers to freeze. Reheat the sauce to serve over spaghetti, or to make lasagna or manicotti, or over ziti or whatever kind of pasta your family likes. Now, onto making some manicotti. 

To make the manicotti, boil a large pot of water and add 10 pasta tubes (odds are one or two will split to be unusable).Salt the water. Cook for the least amount of time recommended on the package. While the tubes are cooking, make the filling.
Three cheeses and egg for the filling

Manicotti Filling
4 servings, 2 tubes each
15 oz. Part Skim Ricotta cheese
1/3 c. low fat cottage cheese
1 large egg
1 tsp. dried basil
1/4 Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese
1.5 c. part skim Mozzarella cheeses
Place all ingredients except Mozzarella in a medium sized bowl. Stir with a spoon until the cheeses and other ingredients are completely combined. Drain the manicotti noodles and gently cool by running a little cold water over so you can handle them. Grease a square 8X8" baking dish. To fill the tubes, use a small spoon or place the filling into a large plastic bag and snip off one corner. That way you can pipe the filling into approx. 8 tubes. I could only salvage 7 tubes and had to toss a little filling. Since there were only 2 of us, it was fine, just less leftovers! Fill the tubes until they are just full, not stuffed. If using a spoon, start the filling at the middle, and then fill in both sides. That may be the best method if you use a bag to pipe it in as well. It's a little "fiddly" but worth the effort. 
Manicotti tubes filled and ready for the meat sauce

Cover the manicotti with 2 - 3 cups of the meat sauce and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Cover the dish with foil or a top and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover the dish and bake 10 more minutes until it's hot and bubbly. Let cool 10 minutes before serving. 

Manicotti with meat sauce, waiting for the final sprinkle of Mozzarella! 
 ENJOY! 



Thursday, May 1, 2014

Spring Leek and Potato Soup or Vichyssoise

Creamy Leek and Potato Soup
I've had leeks on my  mind lately. I keep seeing them, looking fresh and palely green in stores and at markets but I've got a secret. I've NEVER cooked a leek! Why? I honestly don't know, except perhaps I can't remember my mother or my grandmothers or any of my aunts cooking them. Those wonderful ladies were my cooking mentors, companions and partners in happy hour crime. We cooked and laughed our way through many, many dishes, but leeks never appeared. Now that I've conquered them, I honestly don't know why.
Why was I afraid of a leek? 

I decided to start out with a Leek and Potato soup. First I researched my favorites-- a little Julia, a little Ina and a dash of Emeril. All of them have much to say on the subject of leeks -- Julia doesn't saute' them first in any fat, but simply boils the leeks and vegetables in water. Ina and Emeril both added different amounts of chicken stock and water. Emeril kicked his up with spices, but I wanted a more traditional flavor. However, they all agreed on one point -- YOU'VE GOT TO WASH THEM WELL!! This is REALLY important, as the leeks hold lots of sand and dirt between their layers. I decided to do it by removing the tough outer, dark green leaves, cutting off the top couple of inches (also tough and darker green) and then cutting off an inch at the root. I sliced them into rounds about 1/4" thick, like this:

Sliced Leeks
I put them into a big bowl filled with cold water, and let them soak for a few minutes, swishing my hand through the water. I drained them in the colander shown above, and then put them back into the big bowl with more clean cold water. I swished, I repeated the process. Finally, after several repeats, I didn't see any sand or grit in the on the bottom of the bowl. So, I drained them well and I weighed them. Why weigh them you ask? Well, that's what Julia Child said to do, so that is what I did. And after all, I've got this snazzy red food scale, so why not?
1 lb leeks and my handy food scale
Once I'd cleaned the leeks and weighed them, it was all uphill, and the kitchen began to smell like something good was on it's way. I have made potato soup many times over the years, but I must admit, this was hands down, the BEST POTATO SOUP I've ever made! Something about the leeks and the slow cooking worked absolute magic on the flavor. I cut WAY down on the amount of bacon, butter and cream used by the famous chefs, but I swear, it didn't matter! Here's the recipe and some pictures to urge you on toward your own leek adventure. I promise, I'll be cooking them again and soon. Perhaps a leek gratin or quiche or tart.....hhmmmmm.......

Creamy Leek and Potato Soup or Vichyssoise
1 lb. leeks, well washed and drained (about 3 large leeks)
1 lb peeled russet potatoes, cut into chunks for cooking
Frying Smithfield Original Bacon

3 rashers "Smithfield" original bacon
2 cloves minced garlic
2 T. butter
6 c. chicken stock
4 c, water
1/2 c. dry white wine
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 c. heavy cream + a little for garnish
chives for garnish
In a large, heavy soup pot, cook the bacon over low to medium heat until crispy. Remove the bacon and drain it well on a paper towel. Add the butter to the bacon fat in the pot and then the leeks. Cook them for 5 minutes until they begin to wilt and add the potatoes and garlic. Stir all the vegetables around in the pot until they are coated with the butter/fat mixture. 
Leeks and potatoes in the fat mixture
Add the stock, wine and water to your pot. Stir to combine and bring the mixture to a rolling boil. Turn the heat down and add the salt and pepper. Partially cover the pot and let the soup cook over low heat for 1 hour and 15 minutes. By partially cover, I mean leave the top just off center so that the soup reduces and thickens, like this:
Partially covered soup pot

Watch it, you don't want it to boil over, just to gently bubble away. Lower heat worked fine on my gas stove. At the end of  1 hour, test your potatoes by sticking them with a knife to make sure they are tender. You may need to cook the soup another 15 or 20 minutes, depending on the size you cut the potatoes during the prep. When the potatoes are done and the soup is thickened, you'll need to puree your veggies. 
There are several ways to process the vegetables. I used my immersion blender, which is super easy to do. Let the soup cool a little before you start, put the immersion blender into the pot and begin blending in short bursts. You want the soup to be smooth and creamy.  You could also use a regular blender. Simply remove the potatoes and leeks (in batches) with a slotted spoon and puree them, then return them to the broth. You could run the vegetables through a food processor or a food mill. Whichever method you use, let the soup cool slightly before pureeing, to minimize the chance of getting splashed by boiling liquid or super hot vegetables. 
After the vegetables have been processed and returned to the soup, add the cream. Turn the heat on low to gently heat the cream and soup. Crumble the bacon and add it to the soup. Be careful not to let it boil. Taste the mixture and correct the seasoning -- you might need a little more salt or pepper, depending on the chicken stock you used. I always use lower sodium chicken stock and sometimes do need to add a little more salt at the end. Be careful, it's better to under-salt a dish than to over-salt one! This will make at least 6 bowls of soup. Garnish the soup with a tablespoon of cream and some chives. To make Vichyssoise-- that American invention we think is French -- simply cool the soup and serve it cold. We ate it one night for dinner, along with spinach salad. The rest made it's way to several delicious lunches and yes, one of the lunches I ate it cold. I knew I couldn't sell it to my husband, but I liked it just fine. 
Bon Appetit!