Some words just make you feel fancy whenever you say them. Words like “sumptuous” and “opulent” always make me feel like I should be sitting in an ultraexpensive restaurant, sipping (not slurping, since I don’t want to disappoint my imaginary maître d’) a cool, silky smooth bowl of vichyssoise. This soup is so simple, yet so sumptuous and opulent, every spoonful feels like a special occasion no matter where you eat it.
The dictionary provides this helpful pronunciation hint: vi-sh-swäz. When I say it, it sounds more like vishi-SWAAAZZZ. I can’t hide my enthusiasm for this chilled potato-leek soup. It takes so little effort to make, but the payoff is huge.
It’s thick and rich, while somehow tasting light and refreshing. Of course, chilled soups almost always have those qualities and now that summer has arrived, it seems right to flip the switch and turn those hot, steaming pots of soup into cool bowls.
For this bowl, leeks are sautéed in butter and simmered in stock, along with cubes of potatoes, then blitzed in a blender until perfectly smooth, enriched by a generous amount of cream and set in the refrigerator until cold. That’s all there is to it. The result is a subtle, but addictive soup that seems to perfectly highlight the essence of each of its ingredients.
Vichyssoise is often enjoyed with a simple garnish of chopped chives, and while that is a deliciously easy option, I like to contrast the mild flavor of potatoes and leeks with a burst of flavor by garnishing with a tarragon and lemon gremolata.
Gremolata, traditionally, is a condiment/garnish made with parsley, garlic and lemon and most often used as the final burst of flavor on the iconic Italian dish of osso buco. The classic stewed meat dish benefits enormously from the bright, fresh contrasting flavors of the gremolata’s powerhouse ingredients.
In a different way, the vichyssoise also benefits from the contrasting flavors of the tarragon gremolata. Tarragon delivers a mild licorice flavor that paired with the clean, slightly bitter flavor of parsley and the bright note of lemon zest elevates the soup from wonderful to whatever is a step up from wonderful.
Can a cold bowl of potato soup possibly be this good? The answer is yes, and I will surely be celebrating the summer season with it every chance I get.
Meredith Deeds is a food writer from Edina. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and @meredithdeeds.