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The year was 1917 and Louis Diat, (1885 – 1957), was the head chef of the posh Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Madison Ave in New York City. The Ritz-Carlton was about to open a new restaurant and a party to celebrate the historic event was being thrown. In Diat’s repertoire was a potato and leek soup, one of his mother’s recipes, which he planned to serve at the party. There exists some controversy about whether it was his actual intention to serve the soup cold, but it was, and a classic was born. He named the soup vichyssoise (vihsh-ee-SWAHZ), after the town in France that he hailed from.
Many of my friends and family, unaware of vichyssoise, and rigidly locked into a uni-temperature concept of soup, cringe when I explain that it is served cold. We are such creatures of habit. How sad that many individual’s capacity for pleasure has been relegated to the narrow confines of the familiar. More than one has taken the soup, tasted it, made a face, heated it up, and then enjoyed it. I cannot help but wonder how much their psyche, and not their taste buds, was controlling their reaction.
Cold soups make for excellent summer fare. The best vichyssoise I ever had in my life was at a French restaurant during a Montreal summer. Humor me. Try the soup in the traditional manner but then, if you must heat it up, (sigh), go ahead.
• 4 leeks, tough greens removed, thinly sliced
• 3 tablespoons butter
• 2 large or 3 medium Idaho (russet) potatoes, peeled & diced
• One quart chicken broth
• One cup half and half
• One cup heavy cream
• Salt and white pepper to taste
• Chopped chives for garnish (optional)
First and foremost: leeks are a very gritty onion and must be cleaned thoroughly. Cut off the root end and then cut the green end where the greens start to get tough. Slice the leek lengthwise and open up the layers under running water.
Then slice them thinly crosswise. Lightly sweat the leeks in the butter. Add the potatoes and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and then immediately reduce to a simmer until the vegetables are completely soft, 20 – 25 minutes. Add the half and half and the cream and bring back to a simmer. Strain the soup through a fine mesh sieve, crushing and pushing the potatoes through it. Some folks put it in a blender before straining it. If you do, puree it briefly. Overworking the starch in the potatoes can make the soup gluey. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Chill the soup with plastic wrap resting right on top of it to prevent a film from forming on the surface. Ladle it into chilled bowls and sprinkle with fresh chopped chives if you like.
If you’re watching your calories and/or fat content you should avoid this soup altogether. Eliminate the half and half and cream and simply make a hot potato-leek soup. It is still delicious. If you wish to be semi-decadent, keep the cream and substitute water or vegetable broth for the chicken broth. Or reduce the half and half and cream and use more broth. However, the soup will not be as rich and smooth. Your choice.
COLD APPLE SOUP
Think of this soup as a dessert more than a soup. Indeed, you could serve it as a dessert or as an appetizer. This is summer comfort food at its best.
• Four large apples, peeled, cored, and cut into a large dice.
• Six ounces white wine
• One oz apple juice
• Two oz. sugar
• Half a cinnamon stick
• Two oz. sour cream
• Two oz. heavy cream
• Lemon juice to taste
Bring the apples, wine, apple juice, sugar and cinnamon stick to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat and simmer until the apples are soft, about 20 minutes. Discard the cinnamon.
In batches, puree the soup well in a blender, transferring each puréed batch to a new pot.
Whisk the sour cream and heavy cream together and then stir it into the soup. Then you must check for consistency and sweetness. If the soup is too thick, thin it with a little more apple juice or water. Which one you use will be determined by the sweetness. If the soup tastes sweet enough for your liking and needs some thinning, than obviously use some water. Now add a few drops of lemon juice to taste.
Chill the soup thoroughly and serve.
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