JC 100 Julie Child

Welcome to Week 5 of our celebration of the extraordinary life of Julia Child, her legacy of timeless recipes and her unrivalled culinary wisdom. This week, the JC 100 Luminaries have given us two versions of Julia’s Leek and Potato Soup to choose from. The first, vichyssoise, is served cold, while the second, potage Parmentier* is served hot. Both recipes use the same basic ingredients and follow the same method, only differing in the quantity of cream and the type of simmering liquid.

*In French cuisine, Parmentier indicates a dish that includes potatoes, while potage refers to a type of thick soup.

Leek and Potato Soup garnished with chives in a yellow mug

 Julia Child’s recipe for Leek and Potato Soup, Two Ways

The JC100: Potage Parmentier
Recipe Type: Soup
Author: Julia Child
Serves: 6 – 8
Excerpted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. Copyright © 1961 by Alfred A. Knopf. Reprinted with permission from the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
  • 3 to 4 cups, or 1 lb, peeled, potatoes, sliced or diced
  • 3 cups or 1 lb thinly sliced leeks including the tender green; or yellow onions
  • 2 quarts of water
  • 1 Tb salt
  • 4 to 6 Tb whipping cream or 2 to 3 Tb softened butter
  • 2 to 3 Tb minced parsley or chives
  1. Either simmer the vegetables, water, and salt together, partially covered, for 40 to 50 minutes until the vegetables are tender; or cook under 15 pounds pressure for 5 minutes, release pressure, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.
  2. Mash the vegetables in the soup with a fork, or pass the soup through a food mill. Correct seasoning. Set aside uncovered until just before serving, then reheat to the simmer.
  3. Off heat and just before serving, stir in the cream or butter by spoonfuls. Pour into a tureen or soup cups and decorate with the herbs.

– 3 cups peeled, sliced potatoes
– 3 cups sliced white of leek
– 1 1/2 quarts of white stock, chicken stock, or canned chicken broth
– Salt to taste
– 1/2 to 1 cup whipping cream
– Salt and white pepper
– 2 to 3 Tb minced chives

1. Simmer the vegetables in stock or broth instead of water as described in the master recipe [Potage Parmentier]. Puree the soup either in the electric blender, or through a food mill and then through a fine sieve.
2. Stir in the cream. Season to taste, over-salting very slightly as salt loses savour in a cold dish. Chill.
3. Serve in chilled soup cups and decorate with minced chives.

I’m on a mission to educate my palate, so I always try to go with the least familiar option. I chose to make the vichyssoise. (I confess that my decision was also influenced by how much I enjoy saying this word aloud, vee-shee-swahz.)

I followed Julia’s vichyssoise recipe quite closely, but the mountain of leek tops left on my board were shouting at me to go a little crazy and add a bouquet garni.

Classic bouquet garni wrapped and tied in the green part of a leek

To make a classic bouquet garni, gather a handful of parsley stems, celery, thyme and bay leaf, and then wrap them in the green part of the leek and tie securely with string. Toss it in the pot with the veggies where it will add a fresh, herbaceous flavour to the soup without affecting its colour or texture.

Classic bouquet garni made of parsley stems, celery, thumb and bay leaf, wrapped in the green part of the leek and tied securely with string

Cook the bouquet garni with the potatoes and leeks, but remove it before you purée the soup.

Potatoes, Leeks, Stock and Bouquet Garni -  Gently Simmer

I used an immersion blender to purée the vichyssoise, then put it through a fine sieve. Don’t even think of skipping this last step. It really, really, is worth the effort. The simple process of pouring the puréed vegetables through the sieve has a huge effect on the texture, and is the difference between a 4-star and 5-star bowl of soup. The result was so spectacular that I didn’t have the patience to wait for it to chill.  Vichyssoise was getting bumped to tomorrow’s lunch menu. I wanted a piping hot mug of potage Parmentier for dinner!

Vichyssoise garnished with chopped chives served in a cup

The following day the cold left-over soup was much thicker than it was the night before. Eating it for lunch wasn’t unpleasant, but it was strange. With an ingredient list that included an obscene amount of whipping cream, paired with an ice-cold bowl and a velvety texture, the vichyssoise was more like a dish of soft-serve ice cream (albeit a savoury one) than a bowl of soup. Still the flavour was actually better the second day, although I suspect that had more to do with the time-lapse than the serving temperature.

Leek and Potato Soup

After trying Julia’s Leek and Potato Soup both ways, I can confidently say that I like it better hot, but that could all change when the summer weather finally arrives. A little heat and a lot of sun could make a refreshingly chilled bowl of vichyssoise much more appealing. I’ll be sure and try it again in August just to confirm my theory.

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The JC100: Leek and Potato Soup, Two Ways

time to read: 3 min