The exact origins of Vichysoisse (say it like vishiswazz, with a soft 'a') is often debated, with some references, including Julia Child, citing the creamy cold soup as an American invention, and others citing it as French. What's often arrived at is that a French chef, Louis Diat, recreated a soup from his childhood - one that his mother and grandmother used to make - for the guests at The Ritz-Carlton in New York:
"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."
Regardless, it's a delicious soup that I stumbled upon in a degustation many years ago in a restaurant whose name I can't recall. Served chilled, it's creamy yet refreshing, satiating but not overly. It makes for a good starter in warmer months, and as a main if lunch proves to be too big or too late. It is can also be served warm, but I do like how it differs from the majority of soups in its simply being cold.
Here's how I've come to make it.
- heavy bottomed pan and lid
- wooden spatula or similar
- blender or a hand mixer and large bowl
- 3 tbsp butter
- the white bits of four leeks, thinly sliced (I try to use some of the light green parts of the leek too, just to cut down on food waste, but the darker the green the tougher that part of the leek is, so pay attention)
- 2 medium potatoes, diced
- 4 cups of chicken stock
- 1 cup of crème fraîche or heavy cream
- option: nutmeg, finely grated
- option: chives, finely chopped
- option: pepper, to taste
- In a heavy bottomed pan, melt the butter. Add the leek and let it cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes or, better, until it has visibly softened. Agitate regularly so to reduce the chance of burning the leek.
- Mix in the potato and let it all cook for 2 minutes or so.
- Add the stock and perhaps a touch of salt. Reduce heat, cover, and let it simmer for 25-35 minutes. If it starts to bubble and hiss, reduce the heat even more so that the dish is simply simmering.
- Remove from heat and let cool for 10-15 minutes.
- After cooling, add the nutmeg and puree with a blender or a mixer.
- Add the cream, taste, and add additional salt, nutmeg and/or pepper at your liberty.
- You can serve the soup now, when it's mildly warm, or chill it in the fridge for at least a couple of hours to serve it cold. (I prefer the latter option.)
- Serve garnished with chives if you have them on hand (the day I took these photos I didn't have any chives, but they do brighten the dish, so use them if you can).
Avoid burning the leeks by:
Being diligent about the heat, ensuring there's enough butter (add a little more if the leeks start sticking to the pan), and agitating them frequently.
If too much liquid has evaporated:
You might want to have some extra stock, cream and perhaps some milk on hand if you find that too much liquid has evaporated. Use a mix of these ingredients to bulk up the portion after you've blended the vegetables. Evidently, more stock adds flavour but thins out the soup. More cream thickens it and softens the flavour. Milk can work as a lighter cream substitute.