Cold Potato Soup or Vichysoisse

Several years ago I splurged on a hefty cookbook/treatise entitled The Art of Eating, by M.F.K. Fisher, a 50th Anniversary Edition, which includes 5 of her published books: Serve it Forth, Consider the Oyster, How to Cook a Wolf, The Gastronomical Me, and An Alphabet for Gourmets.  Boy howdy! (as they say in some parts) the perfect gift for your MFK Fisher fan.  I knew she was an icon in the foodie world, had read reviews praising her work, and don't remember if that was all it took, or if there was something more urging me to buy the weighty tome.   So glad I did.  One nice thing about this wonderful volume, a feast of accumulated experience, wit and challenging opinions on food and eating, is its very size.  You can dip and taste at random, sampling here and there, for quite a long time, and then go back for more.

Which is what I've done.  And until our current Cook the Books Club selection, How to Cook a Wolf, I had not read straight through any of the individual titles.  This particular book was written during the World War II years, and is a fascinating glimpse of the life and cooking challenges then, with shortages, rationing and hard economic conditions;  keeping an upbeat attitude with a wolf at the door.

It was hard to choose a single recipe, from such a plethora of excellent options, but one which I think captures that period of privation is potato soup, basically potatoes and onions.  Then you add the slap in the wolf's face, a bit of cream, and say,  "Ha ha, you haven't beaten me yet."  And enjoy your meal while he slinks away into the night.

She thickens her soup with a roux, however you can just let the potatoes do that job and get it to a consistency you prefer with reserved potato water or broth and as much cream, or rich scalded milk as you like.  She says in her revised edition notes:
"I notice increasingly that most average cooks, of which or whom I am one, grow careless about sieves and strainers.  They usually compromise, after a few years in the kitchen, with one general utility implement which will cope more or less with their normal duties. Tut, tut, tut!"

Yes, most of us do not have a sous chef or two for all those annoying little prep and finish jobs.   We say hurrah for the blender and food processor.

Here is my version of the recipe.  Even though the weather is hot, it is summer after all, my stock makings continue to accumulate in the freezer.  Then, after it is made into a lovely broth, I start thinking of cold soups.  So, unlike Fisher's method, I cooked the potatoes in my soup stock (chicken and duck, fat skimmed off after chilling, and then reduced by about 1/3.


4 medium potatoes, cut in quarters
1 onion, sliced
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon sage, minced
salt & pepper
1 quart chicken, vegetable broth or the water you cook your potatoes in
1 cup cream or milk
chives, chopped for sprinkling on top

While the potatoes are cooking in your water or broth, sauté the onion in butter over medium heat until translucent.  If you are feeling energetic, you could caramelize them.  Season with the sage, salt and pepper.  Add to the cooked potatoes in blender container with enough of the stock to blend nicely.  Add cream or milk to the consistency you like and then chill, or serve hot (if this is taking place in the winter).

I tossed some minced garlic chives on top, which is one herb I manage not to kill.  It keeps coming back, bless it's little heart.  Many of the more Mediterranean type plants do not like the amount of rain we get, so I'm very happy about my new green shed which is in the works at the moment.

This is a perfect all season soup.  Serve hot in the winter, with or without cream, and cold in the summer, which we are in the midst of.  Add a fresh salad and some lovely country style bread and you will keep the big bad wolves at bay for sure.


Debra Eliotseats said...

Potato soup on a cold winter's night is the ultimate comfort food for me.

Anonymous said...

Or, cold potato soup on a hot summer's night... mmmmmmmm! (Great minds indeed! Loved your post - I'll be back!)

Maris said...

I love soup any time of year! Cold or hot!

Joanne said...

I've never made a vichyssoise but it does look gloriously creamy delicious!

Simona Carini said...

Each of those title is a great read for different reasons. I enjoyed the Alphabet a lot, for example, though How to Cook a Wolf remains my favorite. I am glad I was instrumental in making you read that through and I am glad you enjoyed it. Nice choice of recipe. I am sure that your flavorful stock brought the soup to a higher level. Thank you so much for contributing to Cook the Books!

Claudia said...

A good selection Simona, and now I'm reading through The Gastronomical Me, more autobiographical and quite amusing.

Rachel said...

I think a cold potato soup would be just the ticket this week during some warmish weather. Thanks for the inspiration!

Tina said...

I eat soup all year long...no matter the weather. Love it! Nice choice for CtB and I love that big compendium of Fisher's books.

Deb in Hawaii said...

Loving that monster book. After finally ready this one, I am ready to give some of her other books a try.

Love, love, love potato soup--warm or cold any time of year (or day! When I make a pot I often find myself eating a bowl for breakfast) ;-)


Santanu Mondal said...

Thanks for your post. I’ve been thinking about writing a very comparable post over the last couple of weeks, I’ll probably keep it short and sweet and link to this instead if thats cool. Thanks.

potato on face overnight