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Vichyssoise Soup

Vichyssoisse Soup

My reading group met last Nov and discussed Anthony Bourdain’s book “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly”. It was a “full house” and possibly the most chatty reading group we’ve ever had. It was apparent everyone in our reading group are foodies as well as “bookies”. We talked non-stop for 3 full hours about food and cooking. We talked about making a trip out to Brasserie Les Halles in New York together… and even a possible “Plan B” should our current jobs fail. We pounded on Cheryl, a pastry sous-chef, and “drilled” her on the realities of a professional kitchen. “Is it true, about the drugs?”… “and the tattoos? Show us yours!"

Most of all, I remember the French dishes that we said we liked or liked to try. I made a mental note that when it got warm again, I’ll have to try the Vichyssoise (Vee-she-su-waa-ze) soup. It’s the intrigue in Boudain’s description of the soup being a “pleasurable shock”. What is that soup that made a 14 year old American boy, brought up on hamburgers and French fries, sit up and savour his food? I wanna try some of that!

Despite the French-ness of the name “Vichyssoise”, the soup was not invented in France. Vichyssoise was invented by a French chef called Louis Diat, who worked in the fashionable Ritz- Carlton in New York City on Madison Avenue. In 1917, Louis Diat was Head Chef at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and he prepared a special menu to inaugurate the new opening of the garden roof restaurant. He prepared the soup of leeks and potatoes his mother Annette Diat used to make, which is usually served piping hot. Louis Diat added cream to the soup, blended it up and served it cold on that warm day. He called it “Crème Vichyssoise Glacée”, Chilled Cream of Vichyssoise, after the town Vichy, where he was born.

And today, it is indeed warm enough, and hopefully not a repeat of "le canicule" (heat wave), it is a whopping 34degC (93degF) in Paris. Hot time for a cool Vichyssoise!

A side note: Vichyssoise has appeared in many movies, including Batman Returns and more recently, in V for Vendetta. Hugo Weaving is “V” and his veritable introduction to Evey, played by Nathalie Portman is:

“… Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose vis-à-vis an introduction, and so it is my very good honour to meet you and you may call me “V” ”.

Of all the good “V” bits in the movie, I thought the introduction was the best!

Vichyssoise Soup

Ingredients:

  • 500g “ratte” potatoes*
  • 3 leeks
  • 3 shallots
  • 5cl olive oil
  • 10cl milk or cream (for not-so-light Vichyssoise)
  • Fine salt
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups of vegetable stock and 1 cup of water
  • Peel the potatoes and let soak in a pot of water for about 10 mins (to remove excess starch). Peel the shallots.
    Slice the leeks lengthwise and wash them under running water. Cut width wise into think slices (thickness of a EUR1 coin).
    Thinly slice the potatoes. Thinly slice the shallots.

    Heat up a casserole, add the olive oil.** Add the shallots and the leeks. Cook for 5-6 mins.
    Do not let them burn or brown
    Add the potatoes and cover with water, leaving 2cm of potatoes sticking out of the water. Simmer (gentle boil) for 20 mins.

    When the potatoes are ready, pour the mix into the blender*** with milk or cream, and blend till smooth. Do this in batches.
    Let the soup cool for about 2 hours before serving. You can serve Vichyssoise at room temperature or slightly chilled.

    Ratte Potato in a bed of flat leaf parsley

    * Ratte potatoes are small, oblong and knotty in shape. The French call this potato the “ratte”, which is “rat” because of its shape. Ratte potatoes taste of hazelnuts and are “melty” (as opposed to grainy) and thus are excellent for a smooth soup like the vichyssoise.

    ** To know when the oil is hot enough, place the tip of a wooden spoon/ spatula in the oil. Once you see little bubbles forming on the tip of the spoon, put in the shallots, leeks etc.

    *** Alternatively, we can use a hand held/ immersion blender. I recommend the regular blender even though it is a pain to wash up. The regular blender incorporates more air bubbles when blending, and makes the soups really smooth.

    Comments

    the potatoes are so cute! do you think they make good pets? :p

    yup, they are cute, but not as responsive as ananas or ziek. :-)

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