This Is How to Make Vichyssoise, Julia Child’s Favorite Soup

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According to Julia Child, "Leek and potato soup smells good, tastes good and is simplicity itself to make." Was she right? Let's test her vichyssoise recipe to find out!

Soup was one of Julia Child’s favorite things to eat, and reportedly, her absolute favorite was vichyssoise. Leek and potato soup, known as potage parmentier in French, is a classic base soup recipe.

What sets vichyssoise apart is the addition of cream—and the fact that it is traditionally served chilled.

Who Invented Vichyssoise?

While some say that the soup was created in 1859 in France by Chef Jules Gouffe, others give credit (as does Julia) to Louis Diat, a French chef who worked at the Ritz-Carlton in New York City. Diat claimed to have created the soup in the summer of 1917 as an homage to a leek and potato soup his grandmother used to make. As children, Diat and his brother would cool the soup down by stirring in cold milk. He called his creation creme vichyssoise glacee after the Vichy region near where he grew up.

Julia Child’s Vichyssoise Recipe

This vichyssoise recipe is from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups peeled, sliced potatoes
  • 3 cups sliced white of leek
  • 1-1/2 quarts chicken stock or broth
  • 1/2 to 1 cup whipping cream
  • Salt and white pepper, to taste
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chives, minced

Initial Thoughts

I’ve never made a classic French soup before, so I was excited to try Julia’s vichyssoise recipe. She wasn’t kidding when she said that it was simple to make. The soup barely requires a half dozen ingredients! The recipe looks easy to tweak, too. No leeks? Use onions. Prefer a vegetarian soup? Sub vegetable stock for the chicken stock. And when it comes to potatoes, any type will do. I used red potatoes, since I had an overabundance from our CSA share. But you could also use Yukon gold potatoes for a supremely rich potato soup.

Prepping the Ingredients

The biggest chore for this recipe is prepping the ingredients. That means peeling and slicing the potatoes and thinly slicing the leeks. And when it comes to leeks, you must always remember to clean them thoroughly! A good rinse will help to ensure your soup is free of dirt and grit.

Don’t miss our best cooking lessons from Julia Child.

Making the Soup

Once the vegetables are prepped, all that’s left to do is to simmer them in stock (along with a pinch of salt) until tender. Julia recommends simmering in a partially covered pot for about 40 to 50 minutes. Once the vegetables are tender, you can puree the soup using an immersion blender, or carefully transfer the soup to a high-powered pitcher blender and puree until smooth.

Since my soup pot was pretty full, I used my Vitamix blender. It took about three batches to puree all of the soup. Then all that’s left to do is season with salt and white pepper and stir in the heavy cream.

Editor’s Note: White pepper is recommended in this recipe because it blends in with the color of the soup. If all you have is black pepper, that’s perfectly fine to use.

Final Thoughts

I served the soup with a garnish of minced chives as Julia suggests. Now, I have to admit that cold soup really isn’t my favorite. But I can definitely see how it would be refreshing on a hot day. We needn’t tell Julia I served it warm, right? The soup itself is quite flavorful, despite its simple ingredient list.

Julia suggests “using your imagination to the full” if choosing additional vegetables to add to the mix. She adds, “You may find you have invented a marvelous concoction which you can keep as a secret of the house.”

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Susan Bronson
Susan Bronson is a writer and editor based in Northern Wisconsin.