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Saturday, July 16, 2011

 

Vichyssoise: Elegant, easy and not so rich


by Nanette Geller

Larry loves Vichyssoise, a rich, suave cold soup of leek and potatoes. For all its elegance, it is rooted in French peasant cooking. It starts with a base of Potage Parmentier,  which at its simplest can be made with just leeks, potatoes, water and salt, simmered till tender and enriched before serving with just a touch of cream or butter. Pureeing is optional.

For Vichyssoise, the water is usually replaced with chicken stock and the chilled, pureed soup is enriched with cream. Lots of cream. Ok for an occasional indulgence, but not exactly everyday fare.

Yukon Gold potatoes are more flavorful than the russet potatoes called for in most recipes. When Milner Farm has wonderful Yukon Golds from Twin Bridge Farms on the same day that Pit Farm has their vibrantly fresh leeks, I like to make a treat for Larry.

I started with Julia Child’s basic recipe for Potage Parmentier. Equal parts peeled, sliced potatoes and trimmed, sliced leeks. Cover with water, salt to taste, and simmer until the vegetables are soft. Mash or puree. At this point, it’s already a delicious hot soup even without the addition of a bit of cream.

Blenders turn mashed potatoes to a gluey mess, but work ok on potatoes when there’s liquid. I use my immersion blender right in the cooking pot. It’s easier and less mess than a regular blender.

 

vichisoise

 

Now to turn this peasant soup into gourmet fare.

Chill thoroughly. It will thicken a bit. At this stage it will keep for several days in the refrigerator, so I make enough to serve two or three times.

When ready to serve, dilute with milk to the texture of heavy cream.

Blend in about 1 teaspoon of crème fraiche per serving (optional but recommended).

It’s not quite as rich-tasting as an authentic Vichyssoise, but it’s still delicious.

It’s amazing how much more luxurious it tastes served in an elegant glass.



 

Notes:

Leeks often have quite a bit of dirt between the layers. I’ve found that Pit Farm’s leeks are generally pretty clean, but they should still be carefully washed. Here’s a good description of how to trim, cut and clean them.

The immersion blender is one of my favorite kitchen tools. I hardly ever bother with the regular blender anymore.

I stick with water instead of chicken stock because I want to showcase the pure taste of the fresh vegetables. Feel free to use stock if you prefer.

I use crème fraiche instead of heavy sweet cream. We like the slight tang and rich mouth feel. It also keeps much longer in the refrigerator. Since I use cream only occasionally, and in small amounts, sweet cream spoils long before I can use it up.





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