Smooth, rich, and deceptively easy, we took the classic cold soup vichyssoise and gave it a savory, nutty twist. Vichyssoise is often considered a French dish and it’s got its roots firmly planted in the potato-leek soup that has been made in France practically since soup could be made, but it was most likely Louis Diat, chef at the original Ritz-Carlton hotel in New York City, who is credited with creating the cold version of this soup. He named it for Vichy after a town near his home town in France, that was famous for its food. It became so popular that it was added to the menu year-round, even though cold soups are traditionally reserved for summer menus.
Vichyssoise shows how simple ingredients and unflashy cooking techniques, chosen thoughtfully and treated properly, can produce astonishing results. You clean, you toast, you chop, you boil, you blend, and then you put it in the fridge to cool and forget about it for the rest of the day. First, you have to select the proper potato and for that, we recommend a basic, all-purpose white potato. High-starch potatoes like russets or Idahos are the worst potatoes to use for this dish, as they’re easy to over-cook and turn gluey. Low-starch potatoes are waxy and can be difficult to blend into creamy smoothness. All-purpose potatoes have a mid-level starch content so they’re easy to puree without hassle.
The simplest way to clean leeks after cutting off the tough green upper leaves is to split the soft, delicious, oniony part lengthwise and put them, cut side down, in a large bowl of cool water. Leeks thrive in sandy soil and when they grow, they push through the soil and trap sand between the inner layers. Placing them in the water with the layers exposed allows the water to do most of the work for you; the leeks will float and the sand will drop to the bottom of the bowl. Swish the leeks through the water to remove any stubborn grit, then let them drain before chopping.
Pay attention to the Black Cumin Seed as it toasts. It will only take a few minutes to reach the desired nutty flavor, but these seeds have a high oil content and can burn fairly easily. Since there are only six other ingredients in this soup, you want the Black Cumin Seeds to be at their best. Keep your eyes on them. If you like to multitask, you can toast the seeds while you let your leeks soak in the bowl of water. Pull the seeds off the heat after toasting them for 3-5 minutes and move them to a bowl, so the residual heat in the pan doesn’t continue to cook them. When they are cool, grind them. You don’t want to grind them to a fine powder, but you do want the grind to be fairly small.
Once everything is blended together, put it in the refrigerator and allow magic to happen. The flavors will mingle and mellow, creating a fusion of creamy and nutty, aromatic and savory. The cheery brightness of fresh chives brings a sparkly finish to the deep flavors that develop in the soup, and create a clean break through the creamy texture. This soup may have a reputation for being fancy but at its heart, it is humble fare that takes a handful of basics and lets them shine.
- 8 leeks
- 3 medium all-purpose white potatoes
- 3 Tablespoons butter
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 Tablespoon Black Cumin Seed
- 1 bunch fresh chives
1. Thoroughly wash leeks and chop white part only into small pieces.
2. Peel potatoes, dice into roughly ½ inch cubes, and set aside.
3. Toast Black Cumin Seeds over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, shaking the pan the entire time, to ensure even cooking and prevent cumin from burning. Grind seeds in a spice or coffee grinder and set aside.
4. Melt butter over medium heat. Saute leeks in butter until soft, being careful not to let them turn brown.
5. Add potatoes, chicken broth, and ground Black Cumin Seeds. Cook for 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
6. In batches, put mixture in a blender, puree, and then add cream slowly. Blend ingredients together and move to a large bowl. Repeat as necessary until all the soup is pureed with all the cream.
7. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours and up to 4 days.
8. Serve cold, garnished with snipped chives.