Wednesday, September 16, 2015


NYC has been the home of many ( mostly defunct) aspiring French Bistros. From the Upper East Side down to Murray Hill, there has been one on at least every other block.  Among my favorites were Jacques on 85th and 3rd, which features a Mussel Special almost every night, and the former Bateau Ivre on 52nd and 2nd, where my boyfriend (now husband) and I watched Obama win the presidential election on a chilly November evening while eating Sole Menuiere. By the time I moved from NYC in 2012, most of the bistros were being turned into trendier "wine bars" or "tapas" restaurants.

They all varied in quality and after trying out a few in your neighborhood, you knew which had the best roast chicken or your favorite steak frites, but they all had bad Vichyssoise.  It was a standard on the every menu, and was usually served extremely watery and with about three chives, forcing you to sip it with lots of "le pain".  And who knows how long it had been stored in their walk-in.  So when my grandmother (the same one who makes potato salad), made Vichyssoise once, I only ate some to be polite. But, it was good!

Homemade, fresh, Vichyssoise, is completely different.  It's actually savory (rather than liquid salt) and refreshing on a hot day. She mailed me her recipe (out of the Joy of Cooking).

My grandmother's Joy of Cooking recipe is pretty standard Vichyssoise, which calls for three leeks, one white onion, and four medium-sized potatoes.  The recipe calls for you to put the sauteed, softened ingredients through a very fine sieve, food mill, or blender. The recipe also calls for chives, which my grandmother states she "usually does not have."

I have also often used Mark Bittman's recipe. His calls for only leeks and potatoes (Yukon gold or russet), garlic, and for the cream to be optional. His suggested garnish is parsley or chervil (which is....?).  The end result is that cream is not "optional." But, I do use Yukon gold potatoes now.

I have found the best recipe to be by Simon Hopkinson, British chef and author of Roast Chicken and Other Stories. It's extremely simple, and requires cream and chives, along with the standard leeks (6) and potatoes (2). He also writes, "it really is worth passing the (blended) soup through a very fine sieve to achieve a wonderfully smooth result." While I wholeheartedly agree, I have two kids under four and won't be doing that anytime soon.

Bon Appetite!

from Simon Hopkinson

6 leeks, white parts only, trimmed and sliced
3 cups light chicken stock
2 russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
Salt and white pepper
1 cup heavy cream
Small bunch chives

Simmer the leeks in chicken stock, covered, for 20 minutes. Add the potatoes, salt, and pepper and cook, covered, for another 20 minutes. Blend in batches until smooth, then strain if needed through a fine mesh sieve, cool, and add the cream. Correct the seasoning and chill thoroughly. Serve in ice cold bowls and garnish with chives. 

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