Chilled cucumber and lettuce vichyssoise with homemade sourdough croutons

A vichyssoise is a very traditional French summer soup made with potatoes, allums (onions, leeks), and a touch of cream for smoothness. The origins of the soup are attributed to chef Louis Diat at the Ritz Carlton, NY in the early 1900's. He was inspired to take the traditional French potage Parmentier, or potato-leek soup, and added cream to it and serve it chilled during the summer months. He was originally from the town of Vichy in France and the cold soup served at the Ritz in New York still is called the crème vichyssoise glacée to honor this memory.

This soup stays true to the core of the traditional soup and is lightly scented with cucumbers and lettuce. The bright green soup is light and has a delicate flavor, perfect for the hot weather. The delicately balanced flavors are light and refreshing. This is the perfect soup to start any summer dinner.

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Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter

2 leeks, white and pale green parts, washed and thonly sliced in half moons, or 1 onions, thinly sliced

1 large potato, peeled and diced into small cubes

5 cups vegetable or chicken stock

2 cucumbers, peeled and cubed

1 large head green lettuce, sliced into thin ribbons, use a large butterhead, or 2 small Gem lettuces, or of your choice

3 tablespoons cream or crème fraîche

Salt, to taste

1/2 teaspoon pepper


For the croutons:

Sourdough bread, or whole wheat bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

Olive oil


Garnishes:

Cream or crème fraîche

Scallions, thinly sliced, or snipped chives


Heat the butter in a soup pot on medium-low heat and add the leeks, cover and sweat gently till translucent and very soft, but not colored. Add the stock and potato and bring to a boil and simmer fo 20 minutes till the potatoes are cooked through and soft.


Add the cucumbers and lettuce and simmer for 2-3 minutes till the lettuce is a bright green. Do not overcook, the lettuce will turn a drab green and the soup with not look appetizing.


Cool the soup, add the cream and purée the soup in a blender or with a hand blender till very smooth. You can choose to strain the soup through a fine-mesh sieve for a smoother soup and to remove all the bits and pieces.


Chill for 4 hours in the fridge till very cold.


Meanwhile to make the croutons, heat the oven to 375 F.


Toss the bread cubes with some olive oil, not too much, and bake in a single layer till crisp, about 15 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.


To serve the soup, Ladle the soup into individual serving bowls and top with a few croutons and some scallions or chives. Serve chilled.

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