Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Seduced by Soup: Thomas Keller's Vichyssoisse

The clock struck five and I still sat at my makeshift desk in the Cute Gardener’s house trying to painstakingly choose the last of fourteen colors that would make up the hue palette in my new art series, obsessively hunched over a computer poring through paint swatches from different manufacturers that would match up in an antique vein with the old washes on antiquated tarot cards, and I was taken away by a particular scent in the air.

Behind me in the kitchen, for who knows how long, the CG had been busy chopping and dicing as he is prone to do when the clock hits dinner preparation time, and now the most glorious fragrance of boiling potato and leeks was filling the air.

I recalled coming home from the grocery store earlier in the week with a pint of heavy cream that he had warned me not to touch for my morning coffee. I then had a flash of the hearty-stalked leeks he had picked up at Whole Foods. A potato had obviously come out of the cellar beneath his stairs. And now a food processor was sitting on the kitchen tile island full of cucumbers from the garden, chopped in large, crude bits.

It could only mean one thing: he was making Thomas Keller’s cucumber vichyssoisse clipped from a recent Los Angeles Times article we had both perused with hunger. My man never makes dinner from printed recipes, but when he does, it is oftentimes because he has tasted the food of the chef who has written it and thinks it’s good. In Keller’s case, I go time and again to his roasted chicken preparation whenever I need a good juicy bird for a base. Knowing I would get the double threat treat of a Keller soup with my boyfriend’s sublime touches (he has a green thumb for honest and simply good food), I closed my computer for the day and instead, focused on the fragrance of the food.

The smell of potato ceased to permeate the room as it sat on the stove post boil in its cream bath. Next came the scent of blistering meat as sausages began to bust their seams in the toaster oven. Not only was I getting this exquisite silken, summer soup but a nice fresh sausage and red pepper pasta to boot.

But anything would have tasted good after the first dollop of creamy broth touched my lips, coating them with the oblivion that usually happens when the CG makes me food.

Thomas Keller’s Cucumber Vichyssoisse
4 servings

¼ cup of largely diced shallots
¼ cup of largely diced leeks
½ cup largely diced onions
½ tablespoon butter
1-1/4 cup peeled, baking potatoes, largely diced
½ quart of water, or as needed
¾ cup heavy cream
1-1/2 tablespoon crème fraiche
1 cucumber
1-1/2 tablespoon mint leaves
Salt, per desire

In a large pot, sweat the shallots, leeks and onions in butter until completely soft. Add the diced potatoes and enough water to cover. Bring the water to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender. Add the cream and simmer an additional 20 minutes.

Transfer the soup in two batches to a blender and puree, adding 3/4 of a tablespoon of crème fraiche to each batch. Once pureed, pass the soup base through a fine chinois into a bowl, then cover and refrigerate until chilled.

Taste each cucumber to ensure that there is no bitter flavor. Cut the cucumbers into chunks, combine with mint leaves and then pass through a juicer (or use a blender and then pass the puree through a strainer). You should have at least 3/4 cup juice. When the soup base is completely chilled, combine it with the 3/4 cups of cucumber juice and season to taste.

Keller suggests serving the soup garnished with basil, crème fraiche, or cherry tomato confit.

For step number four, mine came with a beautiful pile of tiny, diced tomatoes, basil, and a teensy bit of wasabi powder to hint at heating things up.

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