Vichyssoise: Soup That's Delicious Hot or Cold

Let your leeks shine in a creamy (and presidential!) vichyssoise.

We’re in love with leeks this January, so we’re partnering with our friends at Food52 to share tips, insights and recipes featuring the onion’s cousin.

Hot or cold? American or French? A classic vichyssoise (pronounced veeshee-swahze) is, at its core, a puree of potatoes, leeks, cream, onions, and stock. And while the viscous soup's ingredients are simple, its origins remain a bit cloudier. Julia Child called it an "American invention," while other culinary historians waver between whether it's genuinely French or American.

Cold vichyssoise, though, is American. In 1910, Louis Diat first chilled the soup for New York City's Ritz-Carlton Hotel. (Earlier cookbooks and published recipes served the soup hot.) Somewhere along the line, though, chilled vichyssoise became "classic."

Vichyssoise is like the less fancifully-named potato leek soup, but with a bit more oomph (and more cream). You start off by sautéing leeks and onions in a healthy amount of butter—cooking low and slow to ensure they soften, but don't take on any color. We want an off-white soup, not an off-white soup with brown flecks.

From there, potatoes and stock go into the saucepan and everything simmers until the vegetables are tender. The mixture goes into a food processor or blender and is pureed until smooth. Here's where vichyssoise technique varies a bit: The President's Own White House Cookbook instructs you to add milk, cream, nutmeg, salt, and pepper, bring to a boil, let cool for 10 minutes, and then blend the vichyssoise a second time. In Masters of American Cookery, the puree is thinned with cream to reach desired consistency (read: whether you want thin or thick soup), and brought just shy of a simmer before serving.

From there, you can chill the soup, however we prefer vichyssoise hot, where the humble marriage of potato and leek becomes something that's smooth and soothing (some might even say soupier).

Whatever the temperature, serve vichyssoise with a dollop of sour cream and a smattering of chopped chives. It might be French. It might be American. But it's always mighty fine.

Title

Simmer in flavor

For soups and stocks, find the ideal temperature for a low simmer with the professional temperature control of induction.

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Leek Vichyssoise

By Food52 Editor Samantha Weiss Hills

Adapted from The President's Own White House Cookbook.

Servings: Makes 2 1/2 quarts

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Ingredients

4 leeks, sliced paper thin

1 medium onion, sliced paper thin

6 tablespoons butter

4 large red potatoes

4 cups vegetable stock

2 cups milk

2 cups cream

¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Sour cream and chopped chives, for garnish

Instructions

In a large saucepan, cook the leeks and onion in the butter until soft, but not brown.

While the leeks and onions cook, peel and slice the potatoes to about 1/4 inch thick. Boil the slices in water for 10 minutes, strain, and add them to the leek and onion mixture.

Add the vegetable stock to the saucepan. Cover and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat and cool, then sieve or puree the soup until smooth.

Return the soup to the heat and stir in the milk, cream, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Bring slowly to a boil, and then remove from the heat. Cool for about 10 minutes and then blend or sieve a second time.

Serve immediately with a dollop of sour cream and some chopped chives.

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