Vichyssoise is the French term for a Potato-Leek soup. A French Bistro staple, it is often served cold in the summers. Given that it’s winter + cold and rainy in Portland, I really wanted to warm up the soup and add in some decadence.
I’ve had Potato-Leek soup before, and you probably have too. But I experienced a version once that was so magical, it inspired me to want to find a recipe at home that was just as good. If you’re interested, the restaurant is in Walla Walla Washington, and it is called Brasserie Four. Eating at Brasserie is a real treat and I highly recommend it the next time you find yourself out wine-tasting in that part of the country.
The first time I made a standard Vichyssoise, the recipe called for russets and that’s what I used. A lot of traditional recipes insist on russets, but frankly, I didn’t like them. Given their very high starch content, they can make the soup almost gummy – particularly if it is vigorously pureed. In my opinion, a waxy-style, low-starch potato such as reds or even Yukon Golds (medium starch) will result in a silker soup.
Because we advocate for seasonal eating, I also wanted to throw in a superstar winter vegetable many folks are not familiar with. Celeriac, or celery root, is a root vegetable prized for its large bulb. Despite its name, it is related to turnips, not celery. It has a mild celery flavor, with the consistency more of a sweet potato (far denser than a standard potato, and harder to cut through.) Celeriac contains a considerable amount of potassium, a mineral that helps in preventing hypertension by regulating your blood pressure – perfect for stressful days. It also contains high amounts of vitamin K and phosphorus, which help in bone metabolism and the prevention of osteoporosis. This is pretty complementary to the amount of dairy/calcium in this recipe!
Although it looks intimidating from the outside, celery root’s tough exterior can be easily peeled using a serrated knife. Trim any knobby roots remaining and you’re ready to cook! Celery root browns quickly, like an avocado, so be sure to cut it only right before you’re ready to cook. Otherwise it can color your soup brown.
I got my potatoes, leeks and celeriac from our Winter CSA at Stoneboat Farms. I highly recommend CSA’s, especially for families. They are economical and fresh, better-than-organic seasonal produce! If you aren’t familiar with it, a CSA is a weekly “direct to consumer” pickup program for veggies – you get them directly from the farm, no grocery store middleman needed. 🙂
Potato-Leek soup all by itself is delicious, but what could we do to just elevate it a little bit – make it a real treat while keeping it as healing as it is cozy? In the end, I added two of my favorite winter flavors: truffle and gruyere.
I realize truffle is expensive, and can be difficult to get. A little of this earthy flavor goes a long way. Truffle oil is available in most grocery stores. New Seasons here in Portland carries house-made truffle butter in the autumn and winter – I unabashedly put it on and in EVERYTHING. That is what is used in this recipe. If you just can’t get your hands on anything truffley, however, don’t fret. It’s just as good with an extra 1/4 cup of gruyere and some nice salted butter.
And speaking of decadence: Not all richness comes from fat. Fresh herbs have an unbelievable ability to transform a dish into a magical culinary treat. My absolute favorites in this bowl are fresh tarragon, chives, and dill. As you can see from the photos, I’m not shy about these herbs. So don’t bother sprinkling. Instead, pile them high in the middle of the bowl. They add zero calories but a magical complexity of flavor, as well as anti-inflammatory and digestive aid properties. Herbs aren’t just garnishes. They’re nutritious!
Although this soup sounds and looks extremely decadent, it still comes out to just over 300 calories a bowl when split into 6 servings. It’s extremely filling all by itself, but you could certainly amp up the protein a bit with some shredded chicken stirred in.
Overall, this is just an elevated, elegant Vichyssoise. It’s not going to make you feel bloated with too much dairy fat. It’s wholesome, comforting, and the perfect thing to curl up with on the couch after a long day of work. Make it over the weekend and chop up plenty of fresh herbs to use for future servings. It’s so easy to reheat and re-assemble on work nights.
If you like, pair it with a full-bodied, autumney white (my favorite is Viognier or lightly oaked Washington Chardonnay) or a young, bright Tempranillo. I’ve included my favorites pictured here: A beautiful Chardonnay from Aluve or Saviah Cellars. Saviah also makes a stellar Viognier that would pair beautifully with this. We just happened to drink our bottle with Thanksgiving. 🙂 You can get great Tempranillo’s from Castillo de Feliciana. All three wineries are out of the Walla Walla area.