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The JC100: Leek and Potato Soup, Two Ways

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.
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  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.
Notes

VICHYSSOISE
Ingredients
– 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

Method
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.

22 Comments

  1. Some like it hot! That’s me and you both.
    This recipe looks simple and the photos promise me a delicious soup. Thanks Laura.
    Let me know if you’re ever going to be making tartes au citron.

    Reply
    • Thanks Trish! Julia does have a wonderful recipe for Tarte au Citron et Aux Amandes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking so maybe it will be one of the assigned recipes. I never know in advance what we’ll be cooking each week. It’s always a surprise until the email from the publisher arrives on Monday afternoons.

      The anticipation reminds me a little of the Friday Weekly Photo Challenges.

      :-)

      Reply
  2. This was one of the first recipes I made from MAFC back around 1969. Cold soup! How exotic is that! That first taste was a shock. These days the cream content is too much for me–not just because of the calories, but because of the the flavor. Maybe our palates have all grown up a little bit and we’re after a bit more than just richness. A culinary milestone nevertheless. I’ve never seen a bouquet garni wrapped in leek greens. Nice. Lovely pics too. Ken

    Reply
    • Thanks very much for the compliment on the pics. I’ve finally stopped shooting blog photos with my iPhone :-)

      Cooking the MTAFC recipes with the JC100 project has been a great opportunity for me to try out some of what I’ve been reading in Le Cordon Bleu’s first year textbooks – Cuisine Foundations. The books are filled with gorgeous step-by-step colour photos illustrating the classic techniques, including this one for the bouquet garni. Those books turned out to be the best Paris souvenir I could have bought myself!

      I’m curious to see what you and Jody have in store for us on your Friday post…I’m guessing chickpeas will figure into it :-)

      Reply
      • We try (but don’t always succeed) in being at least a week ahead in case some disaster strikes to throw us off our game. But I’ll take your guess for NEXT Friday. ;-) Ken

        Reply
  3. Yum! Great photos!

    Reply
    • Thanks Mary! Now if only I had some natural sunlight to shoot them under. I hope the weather in Ottawa isn’t as dreary and wet as it is on our side of the country.

      Reply
  4. I remember eating that a lot in boarding school… memories. ;-)

    Reply
    • Hmmmm…not sure if those are good memories or bad ones. :-)

      Reply
  5. Looks and sounds delicious. I will try the recipe. Soups not only gives a delicious and comforting meal but it helps us remember beautiful memories when we were younger and how our parents used to make one for us. Beautiful post. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Thanks so much. There is something about soup that is both comforting and nostalgic, isn’t there? Hope all is well with you and your family :-)

      Reply
  6. I love leek and potato soup! I’m going to get my wife to cook me some. She loves to cook – and I love to eat. I believe it is a hot soup, n’est-ce pas? One thing I don’t like is cold soups. When I was vacationing in Spain, many years ago, I asked for soup at a restaurant. They gave me Spanish Gaspacho, and I simply went, “Huh – this is soup? – It’s cold!”

    Reply
    • Hi Giovanni – You could serve this soup either way, hot or cold, but I’m like you; cold soups just leave me cold. The only ones I’ve tried have been vegetable based, but I do have a recipe for chilled strawberry soup that I’ve never made. I imagine it tastes a lot like ice cream :-)

      Reply
  7. LOVE the soup cup and saucer! What is the pattern/ceramic maker?
    On the soup front, just got back from a 3 week trip to UK and Ireland and had potato leek soup which we devoured. Thanks for the recipe ! Also love the leek wrapped bouquet garni.

    Reply
    • Hi Luisa,

      Wow – three weeks in the UK and Ireland! Lucky you! Hope you had a great trip.

      The cup and saucer were a thrift store find (as was the bowl with the fruits and flowers). They are stamped “Morris National Hand Painted Made in China”. I think they were originally sold as part of a set made up of a stackable teapot, two cups and two saucers. I was hoping to complete my set, and did manage to find it on eBay, but the colour was different. You can see it here.

      Thanks very much for stopping by,
      Laura

      Reply
        • Whoops! This is the off color one you already found.
          I much prefer your yellow/blue one.

          Reply
          • I think they are the same but the eBay set says its hand-painted in Japan whereas mine says China. Still, they look identical. I agree though. The yellow/blue colour is much more attractive :-)

            Hope you have a great weekend!

  8. I am now printng this recipe, and will be giving it to my wife for preparation. She loves to cook, and I love to eat. Thanks for this recipe, Laura.

    Reply
    • Be sure and let me know how you like it! Thanks very much for stopping by :-)

      Reply

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