Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Vichy Water

Vichyssoise can be served either hot or cold. Each is appropriate depending on the weather … cold in summer, hot in cold weather. And it can also be pureed or chunky. I like it pureed when cold and chunky when hot. But, to me the secret to good vichyssoise is the quantity of leeks, the quality of the chicken broth, and the herbs used to flavor.

So start with one huge or two smaller leaks. Clean them well according to the myriad of advisories on just about every other cooking show (split and de-sand under running water). Then cut them crosswise into ¼ inch pieces. I like to include at least ½ of the green part, but purists disagree and eschew the verdant. Sauté these leaks in about a quarter cup of butter or good olive oil adding a palm full of salt and a good pinch of fresh-ground pepper as you stir. Next add about a quart or more of good low-sodium chicken broth (home-made if you can) and a quart or more of cold water.

Then peel, roughly dice (1 inch pieces), and add about six or seven good sized Russet potatoes. Bring up to a boil and cook until the potatoes are soft (at least 15 minutes). Now add either two teaspoons of minced fresh tarragon (my preference) or fresh chervil (half this amount of these same herbs, if dried), stir, and heat for another few minutes. Now carefully add more salt to taste … as potatoes have a way of reducing salt’s impact.

Now you can use an immersion blender (or potato masher) briefly to chop things up a bit … or take this soup all the way down to a puree. Again serve hot or cold according to your want and the weather. But in either case sprinkle a goodly amount of chopped chives on top of each bowl and have the pepper mill handy. Serve with a nice salad (Caesar?), crusty rustic bread, and a well-chilled white wine (vino verde?).  Serves about six people.  Is even better the next day.

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