I once won a school spellathon because I knew how to spell vichyssoise, but that is not the only reason I like it. Cold and silky, it is completely perfect for the hot sticky days to which February has returned us. Even more blissful is the fact that it is very simple, can be made well in advance and most of the ingredients are probably already in your fridge. It is also wonderful for entertaining - a cold starter makes a dinner party much, much easier.
Looking at the net for the history of vichyssoise, I was expecting a French bloodline, but it was actually a New York hotel that spawned the soup. According to JJ Schnebel's Who Cooked That Up website, in 1917 the Ritz-Carlton Hotel at Madison Avenue and 46th Street was about to open a new roof garden restaurant. " The head chef was a Frenchman named Louis Diat (1885-1957). He often made a potato and leek soup from a recipe given him by his mother, and he was preparing to serve it at a party celebrating the opening of the roof garden. Whether, according to legend, the soup, prepared in advance, wasn't re-heated in time to be served as a first course, or whether the day was warm and Chef-de-Cuisine Diat felt culinarily creative, he added cream to his mother's soup recipe and served it cold, sprinkled with chopped chives. He called it Creme Vichyssoise Glacee, or Chilled Cream Vichyssoise, in honor of the town where he was born. The soup's popularity doubtless comes from the fact that even in the hottest weather one can enjoy a bowl of soup and find it refreshing. For many years Lord and Taylor's department store Soup Bar featured only a bowl of Vichyssoise and a piece of apple pie for lunch all summer long." My kind of place.
This recipe comes from the Tetsuya cookbook and is only the second recipe I have tried (the first being the sensational avocado soup), and so far this cookbook is batting two for two. Tetsuya serves his vichyssoise over jellied eggplant, and topped with a sprinkling of chives and caviar - a surprisingly elegant combination. And by the way, because there are so few ingredients, this is one recipe where homemade stock makes a big difference. Here is the basic soup recipe; let me know if you are interested in the jellied eggplant, and I will post that as well. And if you are interested in other soups, Deb at Kahakai Kitchen has her weekly selection posting on Sundays, Hawaii time.
Cold Soup of Potato and Leek
1 leek washed and white part chopped
1 onion chopped
1 - 2 tbls grapeseed oil (use light olive or vegetable if you don't have grapeseed - something with as little flavour as possible)
1 litre chicken stock
6 potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
200 ml milk
100 ml pouring cream
Garnish: chopped chives
Sweat the leek and onion in oil until softened and translucent. Add the stock and then the potato. As soon as the potato is soft, remove from heat and cool down. Puree the mixture and add the milk and cream. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Serve garnished with chopped chives.