Saturday, November 12, 2005

Recipe: Vichyssoise

Vichyssoise is a classic French soup, beautiful in its pure whiteness and hearty in its flavour. It's made from potatoes and leeks. If you don't know what a leek is, please find it here. Leeks are closely related to onions, but have a much milder and more complex flavour, which make them perfect for soups. In Singapore, leeks are much cheaper if bought from the wet market, so try to avoid getting them from supermarkets, where they can cost $1 per 100g, which is criminal.

This recipe comes courtesy of Anthony Bourdain, and is one of those rare recipes that actually works just about perfectly.

Ingredients (Serves 6)

4 Tbsp/56g butter
8 leeks, white part only, cleaned and thinly sliced
2 medium potatoes, cut into small cubes
4 cups/900ml light chicken stock
2 cups/450ml heavy cream
1 pinch of nutmeg
Salt and Pepper
4 fresh chives, finely chopped

No mise en place picture for this recipe; I was in a bit of a rush and forgot. Use your imagination. Generally, only the white parts are mild enough to use, but a little bit of green is forgiveable. Just a bit though.

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In the large, heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Once the butter is melted, add the leeks and sweat for 5 minutes, making sure they do not take on any colour. Add the potatoes and cook for a minute or two, stirring a few times.

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Once your spuds and leeks are glistening and slightly softened, they should look something like the ones above.

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Stir in the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Cook on low heat, gently simmering, for 35 minutes, or until the leeks and potatoes are very soft. Allow to cool for a few minutes.

Slowly, and in small batches, puree the soup at high speed in a blender. Do not fill the blender more than halfway-up each time. I forgot to take pictures of this process, but really, you don't need to be a rocket scientist to figure it out.

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When everything is blended, return the soup to the cooking pot and whisk in the cream and the nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper. Return to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and continue cooking for 5 minutes. You can thin out the soup with a little additional stock at this point, if needed.

Now, vichyssoise can be served either hot or cold. You may serve it now, hot, and it'll be good, but you can also serve it cold, and it'll be much, much better.

If you are going to serve it cold, here are Bourdain's instructions: Transfer the soup to a mixing bowl and chill over an ice bath, stirring occasionally. When the soup is at room temperature – and only when it is at room temperature – cover it in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator overnight, or until cool.

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When ready to serve, check the seasoning, sprinkle with freshly cut chives, and serve in chilled bowls. As easy as easy can be.

And as Anthony kindly reminds us, This is a soup that does get better over time. But keep it covered with plastic (not foil) in the refrigerator, as it will pick up other tastes. And never put it into the refrigerator while still hot.

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