Monday, January 16, 2012

The Vichyssoise....

...delicious was!  Or so said my Aunt Peg.

Aunt Peg was the beautiful and lovingly spoiled youngest of seventeen siblings.  She was my mother's sister.  My sisters and I adored our huge family of aunts and uncles.  They were all clever and witty with a great sense of comedic timing.  With a good agent, most of them could have hit the big time from vaudeville to Saturday Night Live.

We looked forward to spending time with Aunt Peg on our annual October visit to Virginia.  It became even more import after our mother died.  We had lists of questions to ask her about the family and she obliged the answers which were usually spun into stories.  One day at lunch, she ordered a bowl of potato and leek soup.  After extolling it's tasty preparation, Aunt Peg said:  "I'm so glad it's hot.  I had this once at dinner with Jack Kennedy".  Jack Kennedy?  She went on to say that she was, indeed, talking about JFK.   She also said that the soup was served cold and that neither of them really liked it much.

We were filled with questions but Aunt Peg was on a roll and we wanted to let her get the story out.  She spoke of taking the train to Washington D.C..  She told us she was quite stunning in a new "tomato red" suit.  She sat beside JFK at a luncheon.  Or, was it a dinner?  It was before he became president.  She couldn't remember the function.  After all, she was in her mid-eighties when she told us this story.   We did wonder, since this occasion would have been prior to 1960 when all the siblings were still alive, why it had never been spoken about in the family.

True or not, it's a great family memory.  It came to mind as I prepared "hot" Vichyssoise for our lunch recently.

Leek and Potato Soup

4 to 5 medium-sized leeks, dark green tops removed, thoroughly washed and thinly sliced
2 Tbsp butter
Salt to taste
4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 quart of chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1 cup of half and half
1 cup of milk
Pepper to taste

1.  In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add the leeks and a little salt and cook for five minutes, stirring often.  They should just sweat out their juices rather than brown.  Decrease the heat to low and cook until the leeks are tender--about 15 minutes.  Stir occasionally.
2.  Add the potatoes and the broth.  Increase heat to medium high and bring to a boil.  Immediately reduce the heat to low, cover, and gently simmer until the potatoes are soft and falling apart.  This will take about 35 to 40 minutes.
3.  Puree the mixture in batches in a food processor or use an immersion blender until smooth.  Stir in the half and half and milk and adjust the seasonings.
4.  Serve hot or cold.