I'm a self-professed Francophile so I'm always eager to try French dishes, especially if I've never had them before. Although not technically French (it is an American version of a traditional French soup), I've wanted to try Vichyssoise since I first heard of it. The name alone I found extremely sophisticated and I liked the idea of leek and potato, however, I couldn't get passed the fact that it was a chilled soup. I try to be open minded (within reason) when it comes to food but I simply cannot wrap my head around cold food. I should specify that by that I mean cold savory food, food meant to be eaten at dinner time, before dessert. Clearly ice cream and other desserts I'm fine with, but not soup, entrees, sides, etc.
Something I find very interesting, and odd, is that I grew up in a tropical country where houses don't have AC and it is bloody hot year round yet cold food is unheard of. I never, not once, heard about cold soups or anything of the like. People there like their food hot, or at least warm, nevermind the heat and the buckets of sweat. You would think that in such a climate people would WANT to eat cold food but not so. Because I was brought up thinking that table food had to be hot, I've never even tried Gaspacho. I suppose this is one of my food hang ups and one that, I suspect, I will probably never get over.
So, fast-forward to a few days ago. We were at Whole Paycheck, I mean Whole Foods, on Saturday buying some things for the cookout we were having on the 4th. I saw some huge, beautiful leeks and I decided I'd be making Vichyssoise this week ... or at least hot leek and potato soup. Matt loves both leeks and potatoes so, price of the leeks aside, I heard no complaints from him.
I finally got around to making the soup a couple of days ago. When I think French (or pseudo French) food, I think Julia Child. The irony! I looked through my Mastering the Art of French Cooking for Vichyssoise and it was right there in volume one. I sorta mixed two of the recipes, the Vichyssoise and the Potage Parmentier, as my base. My own tweaks included sauteing the leeks and adding the ham. So hot indeed that we were both sweating by the time we were done eating. The fact that I had mine sprinkled with cayenne pepper made it even hotter.... in a good way. I tried the leftovers cold for lunch the next day, just to see how it went, and I still could not get past the cold. I warmed it up and devoured it a second; then a third time for dinner. Julia has yet to lead me astray.
Leek and Potato Soup with Ham
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cups leek whites and tender greens, thinly sliced
3 cups peeled sliced starchy potatoes
1 1/2 quarts (6 cups) chicken broth
1 cup diced cooked ham (good quality, please!)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
salt and pepper to taste.
In a large dutch oven or heavy bottomed pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring often, until they are starting to cook down and become translucent. You are sweating the leeks, not browning them. If they start to brown, your heat is too high.
Add the potatoes, broth, salt and pepper and stir. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered and stirring a few times, for about 30-40 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Starchy potatoes will tend to fall apart and that's desired here.
Remove from the heat and, very carefully, blend using an immersion blender. If you do not have an immersion blender, wait until the soup has cooled somewhat before blending it in a blender or food processor. How much you blend it depends on how much, or little, texture you want. If you used a blender, return the soup to the pot.
Add the ham and cook until the ham has warmed through, 3 or 4 minutes. Correct the seasoning if needed. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream. Serve immediately.
I really liked this soup and I REALLY liked it with the cayenne pepper. My husband, who LOVES potatoes and is usually picky picky, said that he liked it better without the cayenne. He also said that that soup would have been just fine without the ham, just leek and potato. I added the ham but you don't have to, it's a mighty good soup either way.
Bon Appetit, Mon Ami!