The Recipe: Pronounced VEE-shee-shwaz, vichyssoise is a simple leek and potato soup. Serve it hot on cold days and cold on hot days. Either way, it is, in two easier-to-pronounce words, simply sublime.
~recipe updated 2016 for a little weekend + inspiration~
~more recently updated recipes~
For eons, I shunned vichyssoise – that's VEE-shee-shwaz, don’t leave off the last z sound! Its name somehow conjured rotten fish. Its French origin sounded fussy.
So wrong! Vichyssoise is a simple soup, ever-so-delicious served cold when the weather's hot – and hot when it’s the weather's cold!
It’s an easy soup for novice cooks to master. Better still, the same techniques apply to other homemade soups.
KITCHEN LESSON: VICHYSSOISE
Time to table: 1 hour but better after 24 hours
Make 5 cups
- 3 cups homemade chicken stock (recipe below)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 large leek, white and light-green parts only, cleaned, cut in half moons
- 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 cup whole milk, half & half or cream
- Salt & white pepper to taste
- Milk to thin, if needed
- Fresh chive, chopped for garnish
MAKE THE SOUP Bring the stock to a boil in the microwave. This step saves time but can be skipped if there’s no rush.
SAUTÉ In a large, heavy pot, melt the butter until shimmery on medium heat. Add the leek, stir to coat with butter, then cook gently until the leeks begin to soften, stirring often.
SIMMER Add the potato and stock, bring to a boil and cover. Adjust the heat to maintain a slow simmer, let simmer until potatoes are cooked through, about 30 minutes.
PURÉE Transfer the mixture, in batches if necessary, to a food processor or a blender, filling either one no more than halfway. Process until smooth and return to the pot. (Stop here if you want to freeze some for another time.)
Stir in the milk, half & half or cream. Season the soup generously with salt and pepper.
REFRIGERATE OVERNIGHT Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours, letting the flavors meld.
SERVE & SAVOR If serving hot, rewarm on low heat but do not allow the soup to boil. If serving cold, you may want to thin with milk, especially if made with half & half or cream. Spoon into serving bowls and garnish with chive.
MAKE-AHEAD TIPS I typically make a double batch, planning half for the freezer. But since milk doesn't freeze well, I freeze half the stock-potato-leek mixture, saving room in the freezer. Later, after it's thawed in preparation for serving, I add the milk or cream.
VARIATIONS For years, I made Vichyssoise with what Americans call "half & half" – that's half whole milk and half cream – so rich, over-the-top rich, in fact. But these days, I'm more than satisfied by the simple richness afforded by all whole milk. Could you use a low-fat milk? Of course, the soup will still be wonderful, it'll just be less rich. Fat-free half works okay too. I also some times leave the skins on the potatoes; you lose the pretty clean white color but I kind of like that rustic look, also knowing the healthy fiber's not been lost.
EASY HOMEMADE CHICKEN STOCK There are more complicated ways to make stock but this shortcut works. For supper one night, enjoy a grocery-store rotisserie chicken. Then cover the carcass with water in a large pot, cover and simmer for an hour. Refrigerate overnight. Skim off the fat and pick off the remaining meat for sandwiches or chicken salad. When heated and strained, the gelatinous stuff remaining turns into a rich, flavorful broth. Freeze it for later or refrigerate for up to two days before using. Sound easy? It is! I call it my No-Big-Deal Homemade Chicken Stock.
ALANNA's TIPS Vichyssoise has so few ingredients that quality really counts. This means that canned broth or bouillon cubes are acceptable, but not preferable, substitutes for homemade chicken stock. But chicken stock itself isn't required. One particularly good pot of vichyssoise was made with ham stock made from leftover from Twice-Smoked Ham. The leeks and potatoes are so smooth and delicate yet can manage the strong flavors of ham stock. Oiii, leeks! Leeks collect grit while growing so really do need careful cleaning. First, cut off the tough root end, including any roots. Then cut the bulb crosswise at the point where the leaves turn dark; peel off a layer of dark leaves to find more white and light-green parts underneath. Halve the leek lengthwise, then separate the whorls and wash under running water. For visual learners, here's an illustrated guide on how to clean leeks. It's not hard, just takes some attention. Don't shortcut this step, the soup can easily turn out gritty. Not nice! Russet potatoes are some times called "baking potatoes" or "Idaho potatoes". They are often quite large, their skins are rough and their flesh is mealy. I've also used Yukon gold potatoes, these are less meal than russets but do work. What you don't want here are lower-starch red potatoes. No food processor or blender? No problem, just mash the mixture with a potato masher or even the back of a heavy spoon. The texture will be different but the taste the same. If you do have a food processor or blender, please be oh-so-careful careful when putting hot liquids into one. If you haven't done this before, a quick lesson is a good idea, please see hot liquids into a blender.
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