Vichyssoise is a cream soup we all know, and probably we have tasted at least once in our life. But, its popularity is its strength and its weakness all at the same time. Honestly, if your experience is limited to canned Vichyssoise, it’s time to prepare the authentic Vichyssoise: It’s easy to make and delicious!
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A POPULAR SOUP AS SIMPLE AS ELEGANT
Nowadays the Vichyssoise is one of the most popular soups, worldwide known. However, this underestimates cream soup – often bought and consumed canned – is a classic delicacy that deserves to be tasted, at least once at a time, prepared to perfection, with fresh and prime quality ingredients.
THE DOOR TO HAUTE CUISINE: THE ANTONY BOURDAIN EXPERIENCE
To understand what the first spoon of traditional Vichyssoise soup can mean, I borrow the Antony Bourdain’s words, as written in his most famous book Kitchen Confidential:
“My first indication that food was something other than a substance stuffed in one’s face when hungry – like filling up at a gas station – came after fourth grade in elementary school. It was on a family vacation to Europe, on the Queen Mary, in the cabin-class dining room. […]
It was a soup.
It was cold.
This was something of a discovery for a curious fourth-grader whose entire experience of soup to this point had consisted of Campbell’s cream of tomatoes and chicken noodle. […] It was the first food I enjoyed and, more important, remembered enjoying. I asked our patient British waiter what this delightfully cool, tasty liquid was. “Vichyssoise” came the reply […]
I remember everything about the experience: the way our waiter ladled it from a silver tureen into my bowl; the crunch of tiny chopped chives he spooned on as garnish; the rich, creamy taste of leek and potato; the pleasurable shock, the surprise that it was cold.”
(Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential, pp. 9-10)
ORIGIN OF VICHYSSOISE
The most reliable tale concerning the origin of Vichyssoise indicates the French Chef Louis Diat as the creator of this soup. In an interview with The New Yorker, Diat affirmed he had been invented the Vichyssoise in 1917 when he used to be the Chef of the Ritz-Carlton in New York. During the same interview, Diat also told that his recipe derived by a traditional French potato and leek soup he uses to prepare with his grandmother in his birth town Bourbon-Lanchambauld, near to Vichy. In honor of this city, he called the soup Crème Vichyssoise Glacèe.
Likely the soup that most inspired the Vichyssoise is the Potage Parmentier, a popular French soup created in the XVIII Century by the doctor Antoine Parmentier, the first to import potatoes in France, previously considered poisonous.
VICHYSSOISE TIPS AND SUGGESTIONS
ONION OR NOT ONION? – Some prefer using leeks exclusively, and someone else likes to add onion for a more sharp taste. My choice is leeks plus onions!
MILK OR CREAM? – The tradition calls for cream, but this is becoming a little old-fashioned. Several chefs have started to use whole milk instead of cream. I love to use half and half to obtain the perfect balance between taste and lightness
COLD OR WARM? – Following the tradition, there is just one right answer: cold! However, Vichyssoise at room temperature could be a pleasant surprise.
CHICKEN BROTH – Using a tasty chicken broth is essential for a Vichyssoise prepared to perfection, do not underestimate this ingredient!
Even if the classic Vichyssoise is garnished just with chopped chives, some prefer to add toasted croutons or crunchy bacon flakes.
Some chefs have tried to add bell peppers or asparagus, but, even if the result is absolutely delicious, in this way you are going to lose the original taste: it is actually another recipe.
The famous chef Julia Child suggest to use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, and avoid the onion, to preserve the pure taste of the leeks.
Another famous chef, Jamie Oliver, do not use any milk or cream, in a variation close to the Potage Parmentier.
- 1 big (300 g) leek (only white part)
- 2 medium (500 g) Russet potatoes, peeled
- 1 yellow onion
- 1 Qt (1 Lt) chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 pint (500 ml)half and half
- 3 tbsp (100 g) crème fraiche
- 2 tbsp chives, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1/3 tsp nutmeg, grated
- to taste table salt
- ONION AND LEEK
First of all, peel and cut the onion into halves, then reduce into thin slices. After that, slice the white and pale green part of the leek into thin rounds.
At this point, pour the onion slices and the leek rounds in a pot along with 2 tbsp of butter and 1 pinch of salt. Then, sauté over medium/low heat until extremely soft, but not brown or caramelized.
- POTATOES AND BROTH
Now, peel the potatoes and reduce into small dices, then add them into the pot with the softened onion and leek, and sauté 5 minutes stirring frequently.
After that, add the broth, set the temperature to simmer gently, and cook until the potatoes are perfectly soft and done.
- BLENDING THE SOUP
Once the potatoes are ready, add the half-and-half and let the soup simmer 5 minutes more.
Then, pour the soup into a blender and mix until smooth and consistent. Salt to taste.
To obtain the perfect smoothness, sift the cream through a stainless mesh colander stirring with a spoon, it's a little boring but worth the effort!
- REST AND SERVE THE VICHYSSOISE
Now, let the Vichyssoise reach room temperature, then store into the fridge, covered. The soup gives its best the day after.
Once ready to serve, add little pinch grated nutmeg per serving and garnish with chopped chives.
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