A wonderful way to elevate soups to party status is to play with garnishes. For me, vichyssoise, a creamy French potato and leek soup, is the ultimate canvas, as so many things are delicious with it. Chives are a standard topping, but I sometimes add a dollop of salmon caviar, or a spoonful of chutney, or a mound of smoked salmon slivers.
I always puree vichyssoise in a blender for a fine, smooth consistency and elegant presentation. If you use a food processor or immersion blender, you may want to strain the soup through a sieve to remove any remaining bits, and give it its characteristic smooth-as-velvet texture.
Serve vichyssoise chilled, and as flavors do dull when cold, season with plenty of white pepper. You will often find this soup on menus in early spring, as a harbinger of good things to come.
- 4 medium leeks
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
- 2 quarts stock or vegetable broth, preferably low-sodium
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup half-and-half
- Salt and white pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup chopped chives, for garnish
Trim the leeks of their dark tops (save them for making vegetable stock), leaving the white parts only. Slice them into 1/2-inch pieces and place them in a large bowl of water. Swish them around to release the dirt, and then let them soak for about 20 minutes. Drain, rinse, and pat dry.
In a large stockpot over low heat, melt the butter. Add the leeks and onion and sauté until soft, being careful not to brown them. Add the potatoes and the stock. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until the potato is completely soft. Remove from the heat and let cool until no longer steaming hot.
In a blender, working in batches, purée the mixture until smooth and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the heavy cream and half-and-half, and season to taste with salt and white pepper. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Garnish with chopped chives.