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Potato, leek & fennel soup with fresh salmon

4 medium leeks, white part thinly sliced and thoroughly rinsed of grit
1 cup celery, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 large bulb fresh fennel, trimmed, quartered, and thinly sliced
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1 bay leaf
3 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
3 large russet potatoes, peeled and rinsed with water
1 quart whole milk
salt and pepper, to taste
1 lb. freshly cooked salmon fillet, in large flakes
sour cream, fresh chopped chives, and fennel greens for garnish, if desired

Melt butter in large soup pot over medium heat. Add sliced leeks, celery, fennel and bay leaves. Stir to coat all vegetables with butter, then cover pot. Stirring occasionally, allow the vegetable mixture to “sweat” for about 15 minutes or until tender. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and allow to simmer a few minutes.

Meanwhile, pat potatoes dry, slice thinly, and add to the simmering leek mixture. Cook potatoes until they begin to fall apart, about 20 minutes. Break up potatoes with a large spoon until largest pieces are still bite-sized, add all the milk and blend evenly. Add salmon, stir and add salt and pepper to taste. Allow soup to become fully heated, but do not let it boil. Serve immediately with recommended garnishes, if desired. Makes approximately 8 first-course portions, or 6 entree portions.

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