Vichyssoise is a creamy French classic soup. Traditionally it's a mix of pureed leeks, potatoes and chicken stock, but you can substitute vegetable stock and make this soup vegetarian. Served cold it is awesome on a hot afternoon and here it's piled high with watercress on top, so you can get your soup and salad in one.
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 4 leeks, well washed and coarsely chopped
- 2 pounds red or white potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 2 bunches watercress, divided
- 2 1/4 quarts (9 cups) low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, homemade or store-bought
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- ground white pepper
- 1 cup half-and-half
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
- grated zest of 1 scrubbed lemon
- 2 tablespoons finely snipped fresh chives
- Place a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the leeks and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 5 minutes (do not allow to brown). Add the potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 5 minutes more.
- Add half of the watercress and cook, stirring, just until wilted, about 3 minutes more. Add the broth, salt, and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer gently, partially covered, until the vegetables are very tender, about 25 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes.
- In batches, process the soup in a blender or food processor until very smooth. (Hold the top of the blender firmly with a folded towel to prevent an explosion of hot soup.)
- Transfer the soup to a large bowl. Stir in the half-and-half and 1/2 tablespoon of the lemon juice. Cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for at least 5 hours ( or overnight). Refrigerate the remaining bunch of watercress separately.
- Chill wide, shallow bowls. Taste the soup for seasoning and adjust with salt, pepper, and lemon juice as necessary.
- Just before serving, toss the remaining watercress with the remaining tablespoon of lemon juice and remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Ladle into the chilled bowls and place a mound of the watercress salad on top. Scatter with a pinch each of lemon zest and chives, and serve immediately.
- I always prepare the vichyssoise the day before, then let it chill overnight. This ahead-of-time preparation lets me enjoy quality time with our children, and the flavor of the soup definitely improves!
- Remember that cold mixtures require more aggressive seasoning with salt and pepper than hot mixtures. Taste before seasoning and adjust to your family’s taste.
- For a more elegant and special occasion, I like to serve this pale soup in delicate white wine glasses. In this case, omit the watercress salad topping (in other words, you will only need 1 bunch of watercress, and quantity of lemon juice and olive oil will be reduced). Then, after ladling the soup carefully into the glasses, garnish each one with a pinch each of chopped chives and lemon zest.