Vichyssoise soup is a magical combination of puréed leeks and potato served cold. Notice that I wrote ‘potato’ in the singular. Many recipes call for multiple potatoes which tends to lend itself to a soup of library paste. But, if you were a paste licker in school then go ahead and add them back in. I was a glue sniffer so I never really developed that particular affinity.
Older than the rivalry between paste eaters and glue sniffers is the historical food fight over the origin of Vichyssoise soup. Is it French or American? I’d like to say it’s a fusion, but it was made famous on American soil so I could be persauded to cross the picket line. Normally the soup is said to have been created by Louis Diat, the chef at the Ritz-Carlton in New York City for most of the first half of the 20th century.
In a New Yorker magazine (1950) Diat said:
“In the summer of 1917, when I had been at the Ritz seven years, I reflected upon the potato-and-leek soup of my childhood, which my mother and grandmother used to make. I recalled how, during the summer, my older brother and I used to cool it off by pouring in cold milk, and how delicious it was. I resolved to make something of the sort for the patrons of the Ritz.”
Other food fighters say that the French chef Jules Gouffé was first to create the recipe, publishing a version in Royal Cookery (1869) and that Chef Diat must have changed it slightly by serving it cold and therefore calling it his own. OH, WHO CARES?!?!? It’s a basic combination that’s delicious served hot or cold!!!
I like to serve it up a few different ways. Sometimes I pour it over raw oysters or garnish it with crab meat and crème fraîche. I also tend to serve it luke warm as opposed to cold (sorry Chef D). A few tips to remember: if the leeks are cooked for hours they will loose their beautiful bright green color, cream is really not necessary to give this soup a velvety smoothness so it can be cut out if desired, and the soup should have the consistency of olive oil.
Recipe on cont’d reading…
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium shallot, diced
1 large russet potato, peeled and diced
6 cups chicken stock with extra if necessary
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
dollop of crème fraîche
crab meat (picked over for shells!)
1. Cut off the dark green leaves and the roots of the leeks and discard. Cut in half lenghwise and clean well. Leeks are grown in dirt clear up to the tops, so make sure all the brown stuff is washed off. Chop the leeks into 1/4″ slices and set aside.
2. Melt the butter in a large pot of medium-low heat. Add the leeks, onions, and shallots and sweat them (cook slowly) until the onions are translucent and the leeks are tender. Do not brown!
3. Add the potatoes and cook for 2 minutes longer.
4. Add chicken stock and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Often store-bought chicken stock contains a lot of salt (even the low sodium kind) so I season the soup after I have added the stock.
5. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
6. Purée the soup in a food processor or blender in batches. Be careful not to overfill the the food processor or you’ll be sorry.
7. If you’re feeling really adventurous, strain the soup to remove any unblended bits. Otherwise, forget about it.
8. If using cream, return the soup to a clean large pot to simmer and add it in. Simmer for 4-5 minutes longer.
9. Chill the soup by transfering it to a bowl in an ice-bath.
10. Garnish as you like!