With the prospect of Julia Child’s 100th birthday on August 15 (restaurants around the country are planning special dinners in her honor), I’ve been reading her tome, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and planning a special dinner for the weekend of August 10. So with that, I’ve been finding other easy-to-make recipes in the book that I could also make during the week.
Book club this month was slated for the lake (Champlain) and I would be coming straight from work, so I needed to pick up something or take along a dish that would be easy to tote and that I could make the night before. I discovered Julia’s recipe for Vichyssoise which, although I’m not a big fan of cold soups, is one of my favorites. I never need an excuse to buy leeks, I love them (especially in scrambled eggs with a little bit of cream cheese), and the chives in the garden had been ignored since springtime. This recipe is quite simple, peel and slice potatoes, slice some leeks, and add some broth and simmer until soft. Puree, add cream, and voilà! you’re done! It’s simple enough I able to make the soup while making dinner!
I spent Tuesday morning getting serving cups and utensils ready and I packed the soup in a cooler, which I put in the fridge at work when I got there. But as luck would have it, Vermont’s summertime weather did not cooperate. Rain in the morning made for a gorgeous afternoon. But by the time 3 p.m. rolled around, so did the clouds and more rain, leading us to cancel and meet at my house. Which actually turned out to be a saving grace for my soup; when packaged, its liquid floats to the top. Since I had forgotten to pack a ladle (I thought I could just pour it into the cups), this could have been a potential mess. When I got home, I poured the soup back into the Dutch oven and stirred. Much better. Instead of chilled cups, I served in bowls; since it had been in the fridge for about 24 hours, it was plenty chilled.
The soup was a hit, the book (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) was a hit, and the evening was filled with great food, great friends, and as always, lots of laughs. And the best part was there was just enough leftover for my lunch the next day!
(Cold Leek and Potato Soup)
From Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, Simone Beck
3 cups peeled, sliced potatoes (Cook’s note: I found this to be about 2 large Russet potatoes)
3 cups sliced white of leek
1 ½ quarts of white stock, chicken stock, or canned chicken broth (Cook’s note: I used just slightly more than a quart for this, I was worried it would be too thin for my liking. I gauged correctly.)
Salt to taste
½ to 1 cup whipping cream (Cook’s note: I definitely used 1/2 cup, a little goes a long way.)
Salt and white pepper
Chilled soup cups
2-3 TB minced chives
Simmer the vegetables in stock or broth instead of water, partially covered, for 40 to 50 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Puree the soup either in the electric blender, or through a food mill and then through a fine sieve.
Stir in the cream. Season to taste, oversalting very slightly as salt loses savor in a cold dish. Chill.
Serve in chilled soup cups and decorate with minced chives.