Vichyssoise! It’s French(ish), it’s made from potatoes, leeks, and onions, and it’s served chilled (though it’s also delicious hot!) Sip cold from a shot glass on a hot day or eat hot from a bowl on a cold one, topped with finely sliced chives. It’s simple. It’s classic. And it’s pretty easy!
Okay, so, the history of vichyssoise (like so many culinary favorites) is muddled.
One theory as to why this soup is served cold: In the court of Louis XIV, so many poison checkers tasted Louis’ potato-leek soup that by the time it reached him it was cold. And he liked it!
Most can agree that potato-leek soup was widely cooked and enjoyed in 19th century France. But back then it was called Potage à la Parmentier, named after Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, a nutritionist who popularized potatoes in France.
When it comes to vichyssoise itself, some, like Julia Child, call it an American invention.
Most frequently, French chef Louis Diat is credited with the popularization of vichyssoise, who created his recipe for the patrons of the Ritz Carlton Hotel in New York City. The soup was originally called Crème Vichyssoise Glacée, after the town of Vichy, near where Diat grew up.
Nah, you don’t have to add nutmeg. I really like it. Sometimes I add extra!
As mentioned in the recipe, if you don’t have an immersion blender, you can use a regular blender instead. But please, use caution! Allow the soup to cool a bit if you can, and vent the blender as you blend in batches. Venting prevents steam from building up and causing hot soup explosions (no soup is worth injury!)
If you want to invest in an immersion blender, I highly recommend it, especially if you enjoy pureed soups. This is the one I use.
If you don’t want to, you don’t have to strain the soup. After all, there’s a lot of healthy fiber being strained out, and straining is pretty labor intensive! However, it you’re craving that silky texture vichyssoise is known for, you must strain. It’s going to be a bit of work. If you don’t want to toss the pulp thats strained off, you can eat it! Or maybe add it to mashed potatoes– I haven’t tried it, but it seems like it would be tasty!
Vichyssoise (aka French Potato-Leek Soup) Recipe
- Large pot (I use an 8 quart)
- Immersion blender or regular blender
- Fine mesh sieve
- 3 very large or 5 medium leeks
- 4 tbsp butter
- 4 stalks celery sliced thin
- 2 large yellow onions halved and sliced thin
- 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 3 lbs yukon gold potatoes peeled and cut into 2” pieces
- 2-3 sprigs thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2- 1 cup cream
- Thinly sliced chives for garnish
- ½-1 cup water optional
- Prepare the leeks: Trim and discard the roots and dark green ends of the leeks so that only the light green and white parts remain. Cut each leek in half lengthwise and slice thinly into half moons. Transfer to a bowl and fill with cool water, and use your hands to stir and separate the leeks (the outer layers can be quite sandy and dirty.) Strain through a colander, rinse, and drain. Set aside.
- Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the celery, onions, and leeks, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and the leeks have softened, about 15 mins.
- Add the stock, potatoes, thyme, bay leaf, and nutmeg. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer over medium heat. Cook until the potatoes are just tender when pierced with a fork,( not cracking and falling apart), about 9-10 minutes. Turn off the heat.
- Remove thyme sprigs and bay leaf, and purée the soup with an immersion blender until smooth. (If you don’t have an immersion blender, a regular blender can be used! Allow the soup to cool at least slightly, then transfer to the blender and blend in batches. Be sure to vent the blender when blending as steam from hot liquids can build up pressure and blow the lid off.)
- Once smooth, strain the soup into a large bowl through a mesh sieve and work thru with a large spoon. Discard the pulp left in the sieve. When all the soup has been strained, stir in the cream. Serve the soup hot or cold*, topped with chives. (*For me, this soup is perfect as is when served hot. When served cold, I add around ½-1 cup of water to thin the soup slightly.)