I have always loved soup. When I was about 6 my dad introduced me to a cold potato soup at a fancy restaurant on a hot summer evening. We sat on an outside porch at the edge of the woods. It was served in a metal bowl resting in ice. It was spectacular, cold sweet and savory and had a noticable grainy feel on my tongue which contrasted with the creaminess of the soup. It felt so good in my mouth, so mild, so fresh, each of the ingredients presented clearly. It felt so good and cool going down. It refreshed like ice cream. It was called “Vichysoisse”. It’s important to pronounce it correctly. It is not “VichySWAHH”, as an American might pronouce it, It’s “VichyswahZZZ”. Glacèe means ice cream. The French sounding soup was created by a famous French chef in 1917. It is quintessentially a NEW YORK dish as it was created for and served at the Ritz-Carlton, NY.
The creator of this soup, French Chef Louis Diat, in an interview with The New Yorker, affirmed he had invented the Vichyssoise in 1917 when he used to be the Chef of the Ritz-Carlton in New York. During the same interview, Diat also told that his recipe derived by a traditional French potato and leek soup he uses to prepare with his grandmother in his birth town Bourbon-Lanchambauld, near to Vichy. In honor of this city, he called the soup Crème Vichyssoise Glacèe.
Recipe history is a terrible thing.
Over the years I have enjoyed Vichysoisse less than I did as a child. I thought it was me. In a way it was. Recipees get tried and copied and copied and copied and after some time passes they experience “creep”. Someone makes a change and the next person includes that change yet calls it “authentic” or “original”. Before long the recipe looses it’s soul. I noticed the disparity, first, in the Vichysoisse I ate in restaurants. It just wasn’t as i remembered. Historical research into the recipee resulted in ‘an improvement’ that someone had stuck in decades ago. Everyone since then has incorporated this “improvement” which I believe cuts the soul out of the essence of the soup. I finally had to go to Julia Child to confirm the roots and basis of the recipee. Upon making it from the original root recipe, Voila, I was transformed back to my childhood memory.
I’ve long noticed that countries that are considered “Poor” have the most incredible food. It’s usually grown locally, with sustainable farming methods and no modern seeds, fertilizers, etc… Just grown the way it was a millenia ago. This same poverty food is where the snooty sounding Vichysoisse has it’s roots.
The Secret Ingredient is Water!
What is this disparity, this misapplied ingredient? Chicken Broth.
Vichysoisse is based on french “Potage Parmentier” which is made with potato, onion, leek, butter and WATER. It is a traditional “POVERTY” food. The recipe has drifted because AMERICANS think chicken broth is better than water. Chicken broth makes it gloppy. Chicken Broth interferes with the tongue and ‘mouth’ of the soup. Chicken broth adulterates the pure flavor mix of the potato, leek and cream. Can you imagine chicken broth in ice cream? It just doesn’t belong.
The difference is NOT subtle at all. Authentic Vichysoisse does not have any collegen from chicken to thicken it. Vichysoisse rely’s on the riced potato and cream for the mix. There’s just no place in the texture or flavor for chicken broth – it’s the wrong pallette, yet every modern recipe masquerading as the “original” has it. They don’t even mention water.
These are fresh young leeks from the Union Square Greenmarket. Slice them lengthwise and rinse the grit out of them.
The slice them crossways.
Dice an onion, also from the farmers market.
Peel and cube a Russett and a Yukon Gold Potato.
Add some butter, Simmer it for 45 minutes. The potatoes fall apart when you stick a knife in them. Let it cool, use a submersible blender (or regular blender in batches) to smooth it out. You can put the result through a ricer if you like, I do.
When you only have 3 ingredients, they had better be good ingredients. I use Artisan Cream, NOT ultra pasturized.
Once it’s cooled mix in heavy cream to taste. Serve with a garnish of chives and a touch of fresh ground white pepper. Some people like grated nutmeg.
Chill the bowl or cup and serve it as cold as you can. The soup should be just freezing in a light layer to the side of the bowl. It is called Crème Vichyssoise Glacèe, after all.
A delicious, authentic New York Vicysoisse. Notice the special bowl, that’s ice in the bottom.
- Leeks (from the Union Square Greenmarket)
- Starchy Potatoes (Russet, Yukon Gold or both in even amount with leeks.
- Onion 25% of the amount of leeks
- Fine Sea Salt
Clean the leaks, peel the potatoes and onion, dice it all. Put it in a pot and just cover it with water.
- Clean the leaks, peel the potatoes and onion, dice it all. Put it in a pot and just cover it with water. Add some salt, not much
- Simmer for 45 minutes until a knife goes into a piece of potato without effort.
- Let cool.
- Puree with a submersible blender, blend in a regular blender in small batches.
- Run it through a ricer (optional, but recommended)
- Mix in enough cream to taste
In a chilled bowl, garnish with chives and white pepper.