To celebrate what would have been Julia Child’s 108th birthday over the weekend, I whipped out her timeless recipe for vichyssoise. It’s an unbelievably easy chilled soup that showcases the sublime simplicity of leeks and potatoes. Of course, you can’t go wrong with butter, olive oil, and cream — right? That said, this one is easily made more virtuous (and dairy-free) by skipping the butter and subbing plain almond or oat milk for the milk and cream. My own twist, because I cannot help myself, was to add fresh rosemary and thyme from our garden, infusing the creamy soup with the suggestion of herbs. It’s subtle and brings some nuance I think works nicely. But if you’re a purist, omit the herbs. Julia’s recipe calls for white pepper, but I cannot resist the taste of freshly ground black pepper. As usual, we enjoyed this with fresh, toasted slices of my husband’s homemade sourdough. On a hot evening, this was a little cool French delight. In chilly weather, it’s a wonderful soup served warm.
Makes 6 generous entrée portions
2 medium to large potatoes
¼ cup butter
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 sprig rosemary
4 sprigs thyme
4 cups vegetable broth or stock (See note below)
½ to ¾ cup milk
½ cup cream
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Chopped herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, or chives, for garnish
Slice leeks lengthwise in half, discard the outermost leaves, and wash thoroughly to make sure all the grit is gone. Chop coarsely and set green part aside if making your own vegetable stock (see note, below). Peel and coarsely chop potatoes.
In a large pan, melt butter and stir in olive oil. Add rosemary and thyme, stirring over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add leeks (white parts only) and potatoes, stirring well until all the butter and oil has been absorbed. Add broth or stock, bring to a boil, stir once more, then cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, drain the liquid, remove herbs, and cool vegetables almost to room temperature. Using a blender or food processor, puree the vegetables with a little milk, working in batches, until all vegetables are pureed to a smooth, velvety texture. Transfer to a bowl and place over a larger bowl filled with ice. When mixture has cooled, cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours before serving. (You can chill overnight, if you like.) At serving time, stir in cream and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh herbs of your choice.
Note: If you’d like to make your own vegetable stock, place the green parts of cleaned, chopped leeks into a pot with a chopped onion, a couple of chopped celery stalks, a chopped carrot, a bay leaf or two, some fresh rosemary, sea salt and ground black pepper, and 5 to 6 cups water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes. Strain and use in the soup.