This is probably the first soup I ever made. I remember thinking that I should make it because 'vichyssoise' was a funny name for a soup, and it was only much later that I learned that is the name for the cold version that has a dollop of cream added. This is one of those soups that is easy to make, and it seems that if you are a person who uses leeks, there are always some in the refrigerator, just as there are always potatoes in the back of the pantry. Here is my take on the classic from French cuisine.
3 medium sized leeks,(white and the tender green part) split, washed, and sliced finely
1 small-medium brown onion, peeled, split through the root and sliced finely
4 medium sized potatoes, such as Carola, peeled and halved lengthwise, then sliced 1/4 inch thick
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and white pepper to taste
Grapeseed, or other neutral flavored oil, as needed
2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup chervil leaves* or finely sliced chives
Heat a 3 to 4 quart pot over medium heat. When hot, liberally film the bottom of the pan with oil. When the oil is warm, add a tablespoon of butter. When it stops foaming, add the leeks and onions. Stir to coat with the oil.
Cook the alliums to wilt and soften, but do not allow them to color. If necessary, turn down the heat. Cook for 10 minutes or so, until tender.
Add the stock and the potatoes. Give a stir to be sure the potatoes are not stuck to the pan bottom. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a vigorous simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, around 20-30 minutes.
When the potatoes are tender, use a wand mixer to purée the soup, or very carefully purée in a blender (Fill the blender only two-thirds full and cover the top with a towel and start on low speed. BE CAREFUL! The soup expands and can blow out under the lid spraying hot soup on you.) If you wish to enrich the soup, add in 2-3 tablespoons of butter while puréeing the soup.
Taste for seasonings and adjust if needed. If using chives, stir some into the soup, reserving some to garnish each bowl of soup. If using chervil, sprinkle chervil leaves over the soup just before serving.
Serve in warmed bowls and pass croutons on the side.
*Chervil is a feathery looking herb that has a slight anise/licorice flavor and can be hard to come by here in the USA. If you do have it, use sharp scissors to cut it rather than a knife for ease. If you do not have chervil, chives are excellent as well. Tarragon can be used to approximate the chervil, but go light and cut it finely.
Chef’s Notes and Tips:
There are many variations for this soup:
- Take a cup of sorrel leaves and slice them into a fine chiffonade and add them in when you puree the soup. The heat of the soup will cook the leaves
- Add watercress leaves or arugula for a “same but different” effect. If using arugula, drizzle the top of the soup with a little flavorful Extra Virgin Olive oil before serving.
- Add some truffle oil to the soup as you purée it, dust the top of the soup with powdered dried craterellus mushroom.
- Add a little bacon at the beginning and cooking the alliums in the fat, and then float a crouton with melted cheddar on the top of the soup.
YIELD: Serves 4