Potato-Leek Soup

In up-scale restaurants this soup is called Vichyssoise.    ( vish_e_swaz’)  It is a thick soup made of pureed leeks, onions, potatoes, cream and chicken stock.  It is traditionally served cold, but can also be eaten hot.

There is much uncertainty about its origins;  Julia Childs calls it an “American invention”, whereas other food historians state that “the origins of the soup is definitely  French”.  Louis Diat, a chef at the Ritz-Carlton in New York City, is most often credited with its invention, in an attempt to recreate a potato-leek soup of his childhood that his mother used to make.

Wherever the soup came from or who invented it is immaterial to me, I’m just glad someone did invent it and that I have the recipe.  Turns out this is Mr. D’s favorite soup and he asks me to make it periodically throughout the year, whether its hot or cold outside.  We usually eat it hot the day I make it, but on a hot day, I like it cold as a lunch with just some crackers and cheese.

INGREDIENTS

SERVINGS:  about  8

  • 4 – 5 leeks,  white and light green part only
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 4 medium potatoes,  all-purpose or baking–doesn’t matter
  • 6 cups chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 1 -2 cups heavy cream
  • salt, pepper, a little dill–to taste

DIRECTIONS

Clean and cup up the leeks.  Leeks are very sandy, so remove several outer leaves, wash well, cut off the dark green tops, and use only the light green and white parts.  Cut each one in half lengthwise  (as pictured),  fan out and rinse under running water.   Then cut crosswise  into 1/2” slices.

Melt the 4 Tablespoons butter in a soup kettle .  Add the leeks and chopped onion.  With the heat on low, allow this mixture to “sweat” slowly and become tender.  Do not allow it to brown.   Meanwhile peel potatoes and cut into small cubes.

Add chicken broth and potatoes.  Bring mixture up to a simmer, and cook until potatoes are very soft.  Put the mixture through a blender or food processor to puree.  I like to use my immersion blender for this, as then there are no additional appliances to wash, and you can puree the whole quantity at once.

After the soup has been pureed,  taste and adjust seasonings;  adding a little dill enhances the flavor.  Depending on the type of chicken broth you use, you may not need any additional salt.   Finally,  add the cream.  I find 1 cup is adequate in giving a nice thick, creamy texture.  I have also used light cream and  half and half in place of the cream to reduce the fat and calories, and  those work fine as well.  The soup will taste as good, but not be as thick and rich.  On a cautionary note:  do not allow the soup to boil once the cream has been added—it will separate.

Enjoy with a salad or sandwich, and pretend you are enjoying lunch at a sidewalk cafe in Paris!

SOURCE:  Mastering the Art of French Cooking,  Julia Childs

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Italian Wedding Soup

Here we are at the middle of June and the weather this week has been overcast and quite cool.

This put me in the mood for a warm bowl of soup.

Not a thick, hearty one but something rather light, yet filling and containing healthy ingredients.  The one that came to mind is this recipe for Italian Wedding soup.  A chicken broth base, with carrots, tiny pasta, beef meatballs and spinach,  it was just what I wanted.

A quick side note:  I always assumed it was so named because it was served at Italian weddings.  HaHa!  My friend Pauline who is  Italian by heritage straightened me out on that one.  She says it gets its name from the fact that it is a marriage of beef meatballs with chicken stock,  a wedding of sorts.  So—now we know.

I usually start this recipe by making the meatballs first,  putting them on a platter or tray in the refrigerator while I begin the actual soup-making……then when I need the meatballs they are all ready.  In fact they could be made a day in advance and kept cold so you save time on the day you make the soup, since this is what takes the most time.  With the meatballs all made, it takes less than an hour to make the soup.  Now let’s get started.

ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP

SERVINGS:  ABOUT  8

INGREDIENTS

  • 1  Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1-2 carrots, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried mixed Italian herbs
  • 1- 1 1/3 cups small pasta, like orzo or ditalini
  • 10 oz. box frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry; or 8 0z. fresh baby spinach
  • Prepared meatballs  (see separate directions)

For the meatballs:

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs, preferably Panko
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon finely diced onion
  • 1 Tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley

In a medium bowl mix together the milk, egg, salt, breadcrumbs, and seasonings.  Crumble and add the ground beef. Gently mix with  the other ingredients.  With your hands, form into tiny meatballs, about 1 inch in diameter.  It’s helpful to moisten your hands occasionally while doing this—-the meatballs seem to stick together better.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

In a large soup kettle, sauté the onion and carrots in the olive oil, just till onion is translucent.  Add garlic and sauté another minute.

Add the chicken broth and herbs;  Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to medium and simmer till vegetables are tender.  Add the pasta, bringing soup back up to boil,  simmer about 10 minutes.

Add the meatballs and cook until they are firm and float to the top,  about 4-5 minutes.

Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted, if using fresh, or warmed through if using frozen.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.

Ladle soup into serving bowls and top with grated parmesan cheese.   Oh, yeah!  This is good stuff!

SOURCE:   Pauline’s recipe with slight modifications by yours truly.