Sunday, January 22, 2012

Dinner Train: The Count of Monte Cristo - Vichyssoise (aka Recipe 31)

     Boom: doubled my money on two New Year's resolutions in one with this "vicious" French soup.  Yes, the real name is vichyssoise, but we're talking revenge here, so vicious vichyssoise it was!  Plus, we all know revenge is a dish best served cold*.  This soup is served cold (and is easily veganized if need be).  No brainer!  Plus, my girl Julia Child put it in her classic cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which I felt only appropriate to use for a classic book dinner party.

     I should also add that I have had, for years, and irrational distrust of this soup.  Potatoes in soup have always kind of turned me off.  But you know what?  That's stoopid.  This soup is easy to make and it is tasty, even if it does look like baby food.  Julia, however, let me down by leaving me and my potato hating prejudices a fish out of water in the potato aisle when I had to actually choose a potato.  I read the descriptions and settled on Russets.  They seem to work fine, but as I have no frame of reference...let me know if I failed lesson one in my Mastery of French cooking.  You can make it and serve it completely devoid of dairy, or stir in the cream at the last step.  Voila!  Enjoy:

(Translation: a vicious revenge-filled soup served cold)
via Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, with vegetarian adaptations
Serves approximately 6-8
Vichyssoise: a vicious revenge filled soup best served cold.  Or, more commonly, Cold Leek and Potato Soup


3 cups peeled and diced potatoes (I used Russets)
3 cups sliced leek whites (I used about three and a half leeks - it really depends on the size)
6 cups vegetable stock (if there are no vegetarians, you may use the suggested chicken stock)
1/2 cup heavy cream (or more, depending upon your taste preference; start small and add more)
chives, chopped for a garnish
salt and pepper to taste


1.  Prepare your vegetables!  I feel you can handle the potato, but leeks are slightly more exotic, so here is what you do.  Wait to wash them.  Show the leafy green part to the guillotine, then slice them halfway, and then rinse them.  They get lots of dirt inside.  True story, I learned this from a real live French chef. 

Off with their heads! These leeks have meet their very French end.

2.  Pour your stock into a large dutch oven or Le Creuset and bring to a boil.

3.  When it begins to boil, carefully pour in your potatoes and leeks.  Cover partially, and reduce to a simmer for approximately 1 hour, until the potatoes are very soft, stirring occasionally.

4.  Now would be a good time to check and make sure your brand new submersion blender has the appropriate attachment attached.
Believe the hype: don't throw out the directions to your kitchen gadgets, or you will wind up like me:
confused, and cursing yourself in French. 

5.  You were more prepared than me?  Good work, keener.  Next up, when your taters are nice and soggy, turn off the heat and use your blender to blend the soup.

6.  If you are planning on serving the soup as a vegan option, stop right here.  Salt it, almost a little more than you're comfortable with (obviously check and make sure you don't turn it into the Red Sea or something), because Julia says that cold soups lose their seasoning, and we don't want that! You can skip to step 8. 
Baby food?

7.  If you can do dairy, you may mix in your cream now.  Yes, I changed pots because this smaller one fit into my fridge better.  No, you don't have to. 

8.  And now you may place your vessel into the fridge to get chilly.  No illustration, use your imagination. 

9.  And now is when you may chop some chives and serve your soup in chilled bowls (or just bowls).   YUM.

*If you are anything like me, you are also pondering where the eff this stupid saying came from.  Thank the Internet gawds for Wikipedia, source of all my useless facts!
The first written appearance of the proverb "revenge is a dish best served cold" is often wrongly credited to the novel Les liaisons dangereuses (1782); it does not, in fact, appear there in any form. It is earliest identified appearance in European literature is in the 1841 French novel Mathilde by Marie Joseph Eugène Sue: la vengeance se mange très-bien froide — there italicized as if quoting a proverbial saying — published in English translation in 1846 as revenge is very good eaten cold.[8]
The proverb suggests that revenge is more satisfying as a considered response enacted when unexpected, or long feared, inverting the more traditional revulsion toward 'cold-blooded' violence. In early literature it is used, usually, to persuade another to forestall vengeance until wisdom can reassert itself. This sense is lost in recent presentations.

There you have it.  Vicious vichyssoise revenge soup is, in fact, very good eaten cold.

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