There is nothing quite so comforting on a bleak fall or winter day as a good bowl of soup and soup cannot get any simpler than leeks and potatoes – with or without the addition of chicken broth! Leek and potatoes do go together “like a horse and carriage”. Add cream to this soup, chill it, and it becomes elegant Vichyssoise, a refreshing summer soup.
Although a leek and potato soup is something typically French, vichyssoise isn’t. It is actually the invention of a French chef at the New York Ritz-Carlton about 100 years ago. He was from the province of Auvergne, smack in the middle of the country in the massif central region which is mountainous, desolate, and picturesque. One can well image cute cottages dotting the countryside with stores of potatoes and leek in the cellar. The chef relates in an 1950 New Yorker article that in 1917 he was thinking of the potato-leek soup of his childhood and decided to give it a new twist by adding cream to it and chilling it. He named it after the Auvergne town of Vichy which was near his hometown in honor of the region. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.
2 large leeks
1 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups water
1 pounds potatoes
2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley
salt & pepper
Using the white and pale green part of the leeks and chop them (cut them into slices). Soak them in a pan of water and stir them to loosen the dirt.
Drain them and repeat until there is no grit left –it will take several washings for the leeks to be clean. Drain.
In a large, heavy saucepan heat the olive oil until fragrant but not smoking. Add leeks and cook over moderate heat until soft but not brown.
Add broth and water and increase the heat until it comes to a boil.
While the water is heating, cut the potatoes into dice and then add to the leek mixture.
Reduce the heat to simmer and cook for about 20 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, remove at least half of the potatoes and leeks and purée them in a food processor. Or use an immersion blender.
Return the pure into the soup and add the parsley and salt & pepper.
Note: The soup can be jazzed up with the addition of herbs such as thyme. Cream or plain yogurt can be added before serving.