There is nothing more comforting to me than a bowl of soup. I realize this is not an earth shattering opinion – in fact J, not too long ago, waxed poetic on the soothing nature of soup. The thing is, for me, unlike my blogging compatriot, a big bowl of steaming soup just doesn’t cut it in the summer. When the temperature is hot and steamy – like it is now in Nashville – I need something with a bit of chill. If the soup is also creamy with a certain savoriness, then it can only be cold leek and potato soup – or Vichyssoise if you’re feeling French.
I don’t need to go on and on about what an incredible book Mastering the Art of French Cooking is or how Julia Child was a national treasure the likes of which we will never see again. I’ve followed that blog, read that book, and will, in all likelihood, stand in line to see that movie. All I will say is that if I ever want to learn about a French dish, or a dish I think might be French, or a dish that just sounds French, MTAOFC is the first place I start. MTAOFC lays out Vichyssoise in the simplest way possible: potatoes, leeks, stock, and cream. With the obvious exceptions of salt and pepper, that is all you need for this wonderfully simple soup.
The preparation doesn’t require anything fancy either. The most labor intensive thing you do in this recipe is to soak the sliced leeks in water for ten minutes so that the grit washes away and won’t get into the soup. After that, you just simmer the potatoes, the leeks and the stock for a good 45 minutes. After everything is tender and smelling wonderful, you simply puree the mixture. You can do this in a blender or a food processor, but I like to break out my trusty immersion blender. In no time at all, you have a lovely warm and smooth soup.
Now, if it was winter, I would simply add salt and pepper and enjoy the soup just as it is. Heck, even if it was summer and I was watching my calories, I could stop here and chill – and I would still enjoy this soup. But because I had endured a hard day and needed some extra comforting, I added in some half & half. MTAOFC suggests heavy cream – the Mayo Clinic suggests skim milk. By splitting the difference, I got the added richness that made the bowl of soup extra comforting. This cold bowl of soup is exactly what I needed at the end of a long, hot July day.
Vichyssoise (Cold Leek and Potato Soup)
From Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol.1
3 cups peeled, sliced potatoes
3 cups sliced white of leeks
1 1/2 quarts white stock, chicken stock or broth
salt to taste
1/2 -1 cup heavy cream
salt and white pepper
2-3 T. minced chives
To make the soup:
Simmer the vegetables in stock or broth for 40-50 minutes. Puree the soup with a blender, food processor or immersion blender. Stir in cream. Season to taste, over salting very slightly as salt loses flavor in a cold dish. Chill. Serve with minced chives.