A Vichyssoise is a creamy potage of leek and potato traditionally served cold. This version is easy to make and can also be served piping hot.
Two things… First of all, the name of this Classic Soup is pronounced ‘Vishee-SWAAZZ’. Many North Americans pronounce it ‘Vishee-SWAH’, as though omitting the final consonant were the truly refined and properly Frenchified pronunciation. It isn’t.
Secondly, thick soups of pureed leek and potato have been around forever, but the version created in the early 20th Century and named ‘Vichyssoise’ has traditionally been served cold, often at very formal meals. Personally, I like this type of soup served nicely chilled, but I also love it served piping hot with crusty bread. In French cuisine, a hot ‘Vichyssoise’ would more properly be called a ‘Potage a la Parmentier’.
Of course, you could always just call it ‘Leek and Potato Soup’
By the way, the soup is apparently named after the town of Vichy in France, but it is also claimed that it was actually created by Louis Diat, a French chef at the Ritz-Carlton in New York City. The story has it that he began serving the soup cold during the summer of 1917 in order to help patrons stay cool on hot days. How much, if any of this, is true I do not know…
The Basic Method
Sautéing the Leek, Celery and Garlic in butter first helps bring out and blend their flavors. Onions are very common in most recipes for Vichyssoise, while celery is much less so. I have omitted onion as I think the Leeks and Garlic adequately represent the general Onion family, while the Celery is added as I think it nicely complements out the flavors of the other two aromatics.
It is essential you use a good quality Chicken Stock for making this dish. Here, a portion is used to simmer the Leeks, with peppercorns being added for further flavor. It will take an hour or so, but you need to simmer everything until the Leek, Celery and Garlic are really soft.
After the simmering is complete, the soup base is puréed (best done with a blender) and then passed through a wire strainer to remove any solids that might otherwise ruin the creamy texture of the finished soup.
That being said… if you plan to serve the soup hot, rather than cold, and you prefer a heartier, more rustic potage, then, by all means, omit the straining step and leave the goodness of the solids right where they are. In that case however, you should probably fish out the peppercorns.
After the initial puréeing and straining, the potatoes are added and everything is simmered once again. When the potatoes are falling apart, the soup is puréed a second time.
During the last part of the cooking process, the cream is added and the soup left to simmer gently for about twenty minutes or so to ‘cook off’ the raw cream taste. It is imperative, however, that you ensure the soup does not boil during this period as you will simply replace the raw cream taste with a scalded cream taste, which is not nice at all.
As we have noted, this soup is traditionally served cold. You can, of course, simply let it cool and serve it right away, but, as with other soups and stews, the result is best if it is allowed to chill overnight in the fridge so as to let the flavors marry. For garnish, you can use croutons, sprigs of parsley, or both (as I have done in the very first picture).
Your Recipe Card:
Vichyssoise – Cold Leek and Potato Soup
- 5 cups good Chicken Stock;
- 1 cup chopped Leek white and light green parts only;
- ½ cup chopped Celery try and include some leaves;
- 2 cloves of Garlic chopped;
- 4 tbsp. Butter;
- 1 pinch Salt plus more to taste;
- 1 tsp. Green Peppercorns Black is okay, too;
- 2 – 3 cups diced Potato;
- ¼ cup Cream.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan over moderate heat, add the leek, celery and garlic along with the pinch of salt and sauté until softened.
- Add 2 cups of the stock and the peppercorns and simmer, covered, for about an hour until the vegetables are really soft.
- Puree the soup using a food processor or hand blender and then pass the result through a wire strainer, discarding any solids.
- Add the remaining stock and the potatoes and continue to simmer for about 45 minutes or so until the potatoes are very soft and falling apart.
- Puree again and then add the cream. Simmer very gently for a further 15 or 20 minutes, making it does not boil, then taste and adjust for salt.
- Chill (ideally overnight) and serve, garnished with croutons, or as desired.