Vichyssoise is the classic summer soup. Photo courtesy Umami Information Bureau.
Last Updated September 2012
Recipe: Vichyssoise Soup
A Cold, Creamy, Luscious Summer Potato & Leek Soup
The History Of Vichyssoise
Let’s start with the origin and definition of vichyssoise and the correct pronunciation, which is vee-shee-SWAHZ. While it sounds like an old, classic French dish, this cold, creamy leek and potato soup was invented in America in 1917 and named after the French town of Vichy—long before Vichy would become the seat of France’s Nazi collaborationist government.
While the soup may have had its origin at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in New York City, to give France its culinary due, a French chef born in a town near Vichy is credited as the creator.
Louis Diat was the chef at the hotel for most of the first half of the 20th century. In 1950, he recounted to The New Yorker magazine the potato and leek soup of his childhood, and how he would cool it off during the summer by pouring in cold milk, which resulted in a delicious summer soup. He decided to make something similar for the patrons of the Ritz.*
The soup was first called Crème Vichyssoise Glacée. Culinary historians point out that the French chef Jules Gouffé published a similar recipe with potatoes, leeks, chicken stock and cream, in Royal Cookery, in 1869, but did not serve it cold. There is also a form of the hot recipe called Potage Parmentier after Antoine Auguste Parmentier, who returned from a German prison-of-war camp after the Seven Year War (1756 to 1763) to find his countrymen starving, and set up potato soup kitchens throughout Paris to assist the poor.
*Hellman, Geoffrey T, “Talk of the Town,” The New Yorker (December 2002).
Thank goodness that Diat chose to cool things down, because vichyssoise makes perfect summer eating. (Of course, you can serve the recipe hot!) The luxuriously creamy texture is undercut by the umami of the chicken stock.
- 2 potatoes
- 3 large leeks, washed well
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup heavy cream (whipping cream)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground white pepper
- Fresh chives, to garnish
Leeks must be carefully washed. Here’s the technique. Photo by Marlon Paul Bruin | SXC.
- Peel and thinly slice the potatoes. Remove the tops from the leek and finely chop the white bulbs only. Clean leeks carefully to remove all sand (here’s how).
- Heat the butter in a large saucepan. Add the potatoes and leek and cook gently, without browning. Add the chicken stock and bay leaf, and simmer.
- Stir in the cream, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and cool the mixture in the refrigerator.
- Serve the mixture in chilled dishes and garnish with the chives. If you have shrimp cocktail dishes, large martini glasses (especially those with ice compartments), sherbet Champagne glasses or other other interesting goblets, consider using them as an alternative to bowls.
Recipe and photo © 2007 UMAMI Information Center. All rights reserved. Other material
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