In celebration of the Summer Solstice which begins today, I made a batch of Vichyssoise. Summer is my favorite season – I love going to my local Farmer’s Market on Saturday where you find fruits and vegetables robust with flavor and shiny, amazing colors – so fresh! Summer brings sunshine to the Pacific Northwest (yes we do get sun) and on those really hot days I crave cold soup, in particular Vichyssoise or cold potato/leek soup.
Vichyssoise was created by Louis Diat, chef at the Ritz-Carlton in NYC. In 1917 he recreated his mother’s potato and leek soup, and added cream to cool it down. He named it Crème Vichyssoise Glacee (chilled cream vichyssoise) after Vichy, a spa town nearby his hometown in France.
This recipe is not for the faint of heart when it comes to cream and butter – it is loaded with it. I like the soup thick as opposed to thin, watery versions some restaurants favor, if you can even find it on a menu. I use Yukon Gold potatoes as they are buttery and creamy and lend themselves nicely to the creaminess of this soup. You can also use bakers or russet potatoes if Yukons are not available. This soup keeps well in the refrigerator for several days, if it lasts that long. I am not one to get up in the middle of the night and eat something – never have, never will. But if it is a particularly hot Summer evening, and I can’t sleep, I will venture out to the kitchen and pour myself a very small mug – as my Mom used to say, “It really hits the spot”.
3 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes – peeled and cut into thin slices
1-1/2 sticks of butter
32 oz. chicken stock
3 to 4 leeks – use bulb only
1 quart Half and Half
1 pint heavy cream
2 Tbls Sherry
Salt and pepper to taste
- Leeks – cut off the large woody green stalks of the leeks. I normally toss these, but have heard you can saute them as a vegetable – will try that soon. Clean the leeks thoroughly as there is dirt and grit between the layers – wash under running cold water and then chop them finely. You can sauté the leeks in a pot on the stove, but I prefer to put them in a bowl with 4 Tbl butter and microwave them for 10-15 minutes – keeps them from scorching on the bottom. Cook till tender or your soup will end up grainy and lumpy.
- In a large pot melt the rest of the butter, add potatoes, leeks, and chicken stock – bring to a boil, cover and turn down to low and simmer for 20 minutes until tender.
- Puree soup in food processor or blender adding the half and half in batches until well blended. I do the entire routine twice as I like the soup to be very creamy.
- Salt and pepper the soup to your taste and then refrigerate for about 3 hours.
- After the soup has cooled down, add the heavy cream and sherry – stir and refrigerate again for another hour before serving. Decorate servings with chopped chives on top.
I know some people serve this soup at room temperature, but I really prefer it very cold – it is so refreshing, creamy, silky, and exquisite – as the French say, Delicieux!
Yields: 12-15 servings