I want to share with you my thoughts regarding “building blocks” in the kitchen—many basic recipes make use of these kitchen building blocks, which can be made into endless variations.
For example: mayonnaise, pastry cream, Bechamel sauce, croquette base (which we’ve already talked about in one of the posts here), white wine sauce, butter sauce, and many more…
Now I want to share with you a less conventional building block that I acquired over the years. Today we will get to know a foundational recipe that was invented around 1950 as a “potato and leek soup,” also called vichyssoise after the city, Vichy, in France. The soup’s invention is attributed to the French chef Louis Diat, who in 1950 concocted it while he was the chef of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York—there are those who disagree with this information, but this seems to be the origin, even though there is a recipe from 1869 by the French chef Jules Gouffé.
There are many recipes on the internet for Vichyssoise soup, but I am attaching one to the bottom of this short article.
What is special about vichyssoise is that you can eat it cold or hot, and it can be dressed in a limitless number of varieties.
In the attached picture (above) you can see a basic version, from which I expanded into two other varieties—but with a little imagination and understanding of flavors, you will be able to develop and go out in many different directions.
Vichyssoise soup works nicely with almost any herb, roasted eggplant, smoked meat, sausage, every kind of nut—it’s simply a base that is very easy to work with. I hope that this will help.
Here is a little more information, and a recipe that has accompanied me for years:
I admit that in all my years of experience, soups are one of the most surprising categories of food. Although people endlessly say that it is easy, I often find myself needing to fix the taste of soup—many times I discover that longer cooking does not always enrich the flavor of soup. What I have learned from experience is that the beginning of the vegetables’ browning will set the soup’s character. For example, steaming the vegetables for a short time will give the soup a very summery character, and will allow the taster to identify clearly the taste of the vegetables in the soup; longer steaming will develop flavors which will combine with one another, and the soup will have a much wintrier, heavy character—it’s called “developed flavor.” Thus, even with identical recipes and all the same ingredients, little nuances in cooking will bring about soups with different results from kitchen to kitchen.
2 fat leeks—cut in cubes of 1cm
1 large onion cut into cubes of 1cm
4 large potatoes peeled and cut into cubes of 2cm
2 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp of marjoram (spice from the oregano family, optional)
1 bouquet garni (bundle of herbs)—8-10 parsley stalks, no need for the leaves, 1 bay leaf, 1 fresh thyme stalk—everything tied with a string—again, this is optional but it really adds to the soup. Everything is tied together because it will be easier to remove it from the soup before blending.
Chicken stock: around 4 cups, or until the ingredients are completely covered in the pot—for those who keep kosher, vegetable stock or other pareve stock, even water, will do the work—those using chicken stock can also use a chicken soup recipe beloved by you, or any brand which is comfortable to use or that you like to use.
Salt, pepper to taste
Sweet cream, around 1/2 to 1 cup (110-230ml)
The pot’s size is important here—choose a pot in which the leek and the onion are a little crowded, but not too crowded—overly crowding the pot will prevent air from getting in, and the flavors won’t develop. Too much exposure can cause quick scorching of the vegetables, something unwanted in preparing this soup.
The butter should be melted without giving it color—then add the onion and leek. At this stage, it is very important to put in a little salt—the salt will develop the flavors much more than if added only at the end, so it is always recommended to add a little salt at the start of cooking, as well as a little pepper at this stage since touching the bottom of the hot pot will release aromatic oils from it.
The steaming process is around 8 minutes, without any browning, until the leek and onion are soft. Add the potato, bouquet garni (optional), and cover with stock. Bring to a boil and reduce the flame occasionally, mix and make sure that the potato has not settled at the bottom and burned—that is very common in soups that include potato.
Reduce the flame and cook another thirty minutes—it is important not to cook too much, so that the potatoes will not turn into a pulp but will maintain the soft texture yet remain whole or almost whole. I personally never cook soups with a cover, but that’s not a rule, and everyone can do what he/she is comfortable with.
Blending the soup into a homogeneous texture needs to be done while the soup is still warm, because cold potatoes develop very sticky starch during grinding or processing—therefore, good mashed potatoes only come out when they are mashed warm. The blending must be done carefully since hot soup in a blender can jump and splash.
Before blending, the bouquet garni should be removed. The tool should be gotten ready—either a food processor, or a table blender, or a hand blender, or a classic masher, which I think is not in most homes these days.
I personally use a hand blender (immersion) because it’s the safest and works directly inside the pot—anyone using a table blender should only fill it half-way—cover it gently, leaving a little place for the air to escape, because hot liquid being processed in a blender with a closed lid can burst from the pressure. If you like table blenders and want to buy one, I highly recommend buying one with variable speeds.
After the soup is blended into a homogeneous mixture, return it again to the fire—and add the cream—boil it for about a minute and balance the tastes. Balancing is generally done with salt, sweetness, and sourness—if needed.
Anyone who doesn’t want to use cream can swap it with milk. Anyone wanting a more delicate texture can filter the soup through a fine strainer.
As I said earlier, the soup is wonderfully tasty cold or hot.
Thanks for reading,
Pingback: Tip/ Guidance to the young chef : cooking potatoes for salad | michaels blog-for the young chef