Vichyssoise, a chilled soup of potatoes, leeks and onions, has a place alongside ratatouille, French onion soup, gazpacho and other legendary, vegetable-heavy dishes of bucolic origin. Peasant food, as it were, eventually became regarded as high-class.
I think traditional vichyssoise is a tad boring. And the soup’s highest-profile proponents seem to wish to keep it that way. Most recipes frown on deviations and keep it simple.
I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I feel my version is better. It’s not exactly busier – salt and pepper remain the only seasonings – but it has more depth. It includes all the original ingredients, but the leeks and onions are augmented by their cousin garlic. At the same time, the potatoes are joined by cauliflower and celery root, also known as celeriac.
Although my version is more complex than the original, it remains simple and similarly charms you. Spiffing up this dish doesn’t work, even with bacon bits, mayo, tomato, hot sauce, or other tweaks that usually improve anything. Here they fall flat. My vichyssoise-esque is at its absolute best when topped with no more than chopped chives, black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
Those chives, along with the garlic, leeks and onions, are all members of the allium or lily family. That’s a lot of alliums for one dish, so if you are hesitant to call it vichyssoise, we could go with Cream of Allium soup instead.
And it’s more than just a soup. It makes a great white sauce on noodles, meat or veggies. It’s a refuge for when you eat too hot of a jalapeno. It’s breakfast, lunch, dinner and midnight snack.
Although my recipe calls for very little cream compared to the original, I consider the cream optional. Even without the cream, it’s still creamy, rich and maddeningly satisfying. A whole bowl vanishes quickly, allowing you to have another. And before you know it, the soup course becomes the main course. The next thing you know, there’s no room for dessert.
Cream of Allium Soup (aka vichyssoise-esque)
This recipe ends up nearly as thick as mashed potatoes, but you can still eat it like a soup. For the chicken stock, I’m a huge fan of Better than Bouillon paste. But any form of stock will work, including cubes or liquid stock. If using liquid stock, substitute it for the water, and increase the salt levels accordingly, as most commercially made stock contains none.
Heat the water, salt and chicken stock to a boil. Add the potatoes. After five minutes, add the celeriac. After another five minutes, add the cauliflower. Cook another five minutes and turn it off. Allow cooling with the veggies in the water.
Sauté the onions, leeks and garlic in the butter and oil on medium heat, occasionally stirring to keep from browning or worse. Cook for about 30 minutes until translucent and caramelized.
When everything is cool enough to work with, add the leeks, onions, garlic, potatoes, celeriac, cauliflower and the water they cooked into a blender, along with the lemon zest and cream, and puree. Garnish with chives, black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil and serve.
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