I adore Potato & Leek Soup, or Vichyssoise as the French refer to it. Vichyssoise is typically served chilled, but in the winter or on a rainy Spring day, I prefer to eat it piping hot with some fresh bread. There is nothing fancy about this recipe; it is incredibly simple but also delicious and comforting. Don’t even try to substitute leeks for onions here, because it just won’t taste the same. Leeks have a much sweeter and slightly more complex taste in my opinion. Typically this soup has heavy cream in it, but I prefer to make a lighter version because I find that the potatoes add plenty of creaminess without the need for extra fat.
Soups like this, with only six ingredients (not including the salt and pepper) remind me of why good quality and fresh ingredients are so important. The flavor of this soup far exceeds what you would expect from these humble ingredients.
Happy Cooking, Pippa
Potato & Leek Soup
Serves 5-6 as an entree, or 8 as a first course
3 large leeks (split lengthwise, soaked, and rinsed in cold water to remove the dirt). Chop only the white and pale green parts into thin slices.
3 medium sized Yukon gold potatoes, cleaned, peeled, and cut into ½ inch cubes
Heat a large soup pot or large enameled-cast iron Dutch Oven over low heat on the stove.
Add the butter and leeks and sweat the leeks over low heat for 10-15 minutes, or until translucent.
Add the potatoes, broth, and thyme and bring the mixture to a simmer.
Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked through. Remove from the heat.
Using an immersion blender or regular blender, puree the soup (you can make the soup as smooth or as chunky as you like!)
Add the half & half (you can use more or less depending on how creamy you like your soup) and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve chilled.
Serving suggestions: This soup is a meal in itself when served with some nice hearty bread, cheese (I like cheddar or stilton with this soup), and a simple salad. Alternatively, this soup would make a great first course, served either warm or chilled.
This recipe is actually taken from a project that I did while attending the French Culinary Institute. It isn’t fancy, and comes together very quickly—perfect for a lazy weekend or a weeknight meal. My inspiration came from the many watercress and egg salads that I eat when I visit my grandmother in England every summer. Watercress is not very popular in this country, but it is used very frequently by the British in sandwiches, soups, and salads. If you have the ingredients on hand, I urge you to make the lemon crème fraiche that accompanies this soup. It adds a touch of creaminess and a refreshing burst of citrus to the soup. However, if you don’t have the time or ingredients, feel free to do without or to substitute a dollop of yogurt or sour cream instead. This soup would make a great appetizer (which was its original intention), or a light meal served with some crusty, buttered bread. It can also be served either hot or chilled, which makes it perfect for both the summer and the winter!
I chose to pair this soup with the 2009 Ata Rangi Sauvignon Blanc from Martinborough, New Zealand because this wine is bright and citrusy and has some peppery notes, which is a perfect compliment for the pepperiness of the watercress and the lemon crème fraiche that garnishes the soup.
For the Watercress Soup:
1 leek (95g), white parts only, chopped finely
2-3 T unsalted butter
3 bunches (477g) of watercress (thick stalks removed)
1 medium yukon gold potato (medium sized, peeled and cut in ½ inch cubes)
1,185mL (5 cups) Vegetable Stock
½ t Lemon Juice
1 T Heavy Cream
Salt and Black Pepper (as needed)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (as needed)
Instructions for the Watercress Soup:
Place a marmite over low heat. Sweat the leeks in the butter until translucent.
Add the potato and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes over low to medium heat.
Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for approximately 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are completely cooked through.
Add the watercress to the pot and continue to simmer for an additional 2 minutes, or until the watercress has wilted.
Remove the soup from the heat and puree the soup in batches in a blender.
Return the pureed soup to the low heat and stir in the lemon juice and cream.
Serve hot with a dollop of lemon crème fraiche and a few drops of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
For Presentation of the Watercress Soup:
Ladle hot soup into bowl. Garnish with a small spoonful of crème fraiche (see recipe below) and a single sprig of watercress. Finish with a few drops of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and serve.
Lemon Crème Fraiche (adapted from a recipe by John Ash in From the Earth to the Table):
8 oz crème fraiche
2 t lemon rind
1 T lemon juice
Salt to taste
Instructions for the Lemon Crème Fraiche:
Whisk the crème fraiche, lemon rind, and lemon juice together in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and keep refrigerated until service.