Vichyssoise

vichyssoise

You may think soup is only a cold weather food, but that's not the case. Some of the best soups can be made when the weather is warmer—even on the hottest day of summer, of course, as long as it's chilled. One of my favorite cold soups is Vichyssoise with its combination of potatoes and leeks. It's rich in flavor but so light and creamy in texture.

The soup's French name makes it sound much more fussy than it really is. But it's not actually French in origin as it was invented at the Ritz Hotel in New York City during the 1920s by a Frenchman. The preparation is as simple as sautéing leeks and boiling potatoes. Once it's cooked, simply purée. I love to serve a soup like this in small cups as an appetizer because it's the perfect way to start a summertime dinner party.

A tip on handling leeks: The best way to clean and prepare leeks for a recipe that calls for sautéing them is as follows. First remove the tough dark green part, then cut the leek lengthwise, and finally cut the leek into ribbons crosswise. Wash in many changes of water and drain in a colander. This test kitchen video on Gourmet.com explains the method perfectly.

Vichyssoise

Note: To make chive oil, purée 1 bunch chives with 1/4 cup olive oil in a blender and strain.

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
3 leeks, white and light-green parts, thinly sliced
1 pound potatoes (about 2 medium), peeled and diced
4 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 cup heavy cream
fine sea salt
freshly ground white pepper
chive oil, for drizzling
chives, for garnish

Heat butter and oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add shallots and leeks. Cook until translucent and soft but not brown, about 10 minutes. Add potatoes, chicken stock, and bay leaf; bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.

Using a blender, purée the soup in batches until silky smooth. Return the soup to the pot and warm. Stir in cream and season with salt and pepper. Serve hot or cold. Drizzle with chive oil and garnish with chopped chives. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.