Vichyssoise

vichyssoise

Here is the interesting history of vichyssoise and Vichy, France, after which this great soup is named.

Vichyssoise is generally accepted to have been created in America in 1917 by Louis Diat (1885-1957), who was the chef at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in New York City; he first worked at this same hotel in Long, Paris.  1

In an interview with the New Yorker in 1950, Diat relates how his inspiration for this famous soup came about: it grew out of his childhood memory of his mother’s and grandmother’s leek and potato soup, to which he and his brother added cold milk during the hot summer months.  His desire was “to make something of the sort for the patrons of the Ritz”, who needed cool foods during the summertime, in those days prior to air conditioning.  2

Diat’s family made a hot version of potato and leek soup, a popular soup in France, which had its origins in Jules Gouffe’s Royal Cookery, 1869.  A similar French-style cream of leek and potato soup also appeared in Escoffier’s Guide Culinaire, in 1903.  Thus this French soup of leeks and potatoes had become representative of French cooking by Diat’s lifetime.  The genius of our chef, however, improved on it, and today there are many versions-varying only slightly-of his cold American-French soup vichyssoise.  3

Diat called his creation after the name for the inhabitants of the spa town Vichy, which was close to his hometown Montmarault, France.  (Both these cities are in the Allier department of Auvergne-Rhine-Alps, in the central part of this nation, in the historic province of Bourbonnais.)  The town’s inhabitants are presently called Vichyssois, while the term Vichyste was used to define collaboration with the Vichy regime during World War II.  4

Vichy is best known for being the seat of the Nazi collaborationist government in France, during the second world war.  Located in the unoccupied “Free Zone”, it was the de facto-existing in reality, even if not legally recognized-capital of the French State, headed by Marshal Philippe Petain.  5

It started out as the nominal government of France from 1940 to 1942.  Then from 1942 to 1944, the Vichy regime collaborated with Nazi Germany, following the Nazi occupation of all of France, which started in 1942.  The de facto authority of the Vichy regime ended with the Allied invasion of France in late 1944.  The French Resistance-grassroots men and women representing every part of society-played a significant role in the downfall of this government and the Nazis.  6

My dad served in this war, in both India and Egypt.  When I was growing up, the two of us were constantly sharing both fiction and non-fiction books on World War II.  How we loved the courage, fortitude, and valor, of this time, which my father had known first-hand.

Our world today often appears to be void of such heroism, but it still exists vitally in God’s faithful remnant.  These spiritual warriors are presently rising up, to perform his purposes in these end-times.  We wait with joyful hope for the unfolding of mighty good, just like we saw in this tremendous victory, with the ending of the above war in 1945.

This soup always reminds me of the dedication and hope of these times; it, however, was inspired by Chef Diat in 1917, the year the first world war ended, nearly three decades prior to WWII.

Agreeing that it’s an American invention, Julia Child provides its receipt in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in which she states its basic heritage as being the French potage parmentier, defining the differing points as being the following: in vichyssoise, the leeks are cooked in stock-“white stock, chicken stock, or canned chicken broth”-instead of water, and whipping cream is also added.  7

My version has the option of using leeks, or onions, or a combination of both; onions give bite to the flavor, as does my addition of a high quality yogurt, along with the heavy whipping cream.  Chilled spoons are recommended for the perfect touch.

Let this soup become your summer tradition to please guests and family!

References:

  1. https://whatscookingamerica.net/Soup/VichyssoiseSoup.htm
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vichy
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vichy_France
  6. Ibid.
  7. Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck, The Mastering of the Art of French Cooking, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf), Vol. 1, pp. 37-39.

soup ready for pureeing with a blender-on-a-stick

Vichyssoise  Yields: 5-6 servings.  Total prep time: 50 min (plus 4 hr for chilling)/  active prep time: 25 min/  cooking time: 25 min.

3 tbsp oil  (Avocado or coconut oil is best for quality; olive oil is carcinogenic when heated to high temperatures.)

3 leeks or 2 med yellow onions, chopped  (May use a combination of the two.)

1 qt broth  (Bone broth is best; see Tortellini Soup, 2016/10/10.)

1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste  (Himalayan, pink or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco for $4.95/5 lb.)

2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and sliced  (Organic is best.)

1/2 c heavy whipping cream

1 1/2 c plain yogurt  (Either Nancy’s Honey Yogurt, Stoneyfield Organic Whole Milk Yogurt, or Sierra Nevada Graziers Grass-fed Plain Yogurt works best.)

1/2 tsp white pepper, or to taste

  1. Onions add a sharper flavor to the soup; use in place of, or in combination with leeks, as desired.  If using leeks, prepare thus: cut off the root at the base and the green tops, reserving only the white and light green part of the stalk.  Next slice in half length-wise, then run leeks under water to remove all the dirt; finally, chop into thin half-circle-slices.
  2. sweating onions

    Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium heat; when a small piece of leek/onion sizzles in it, add rest of leeks/onions and sweat (cook until translucent).  See photo.

  3. Add broth and 1/2 teaspoon salt to leeks/onions; turn heat up to med/high.
  4. Peel and slice potatoes, placing them in pot of broth, as they are cut, so they don’t turn brown; see photo below.
  5. When broth comes to a boil, turn heat down to medium; cook until potatoes are very tender.  When done, remove from heat.
  6. slicing potatoes

    Puree this mixture, using a blender-on-a-stick, also known as a smart stick (available reasonably at Bed, Bath, and Beyond).  See blender-on-a-stick in photo at top of recipe.  May also do this in batches in a food processor, VitaMix, or blender.

  7. Blend in cream and yogurt; add white pepper and 1 teaspoon salt.
  8. Chill covered for at least 4 hours; adjust seasonings.
  9. This is the best comfort food!

Carrots au Beurre

Carrots-au-beurre

carrots au beurre

This three-part 19th century dinner, which started last week, reflects the new Classic French cuisine.  This era in culinary history became popular as the Napoleonic age followed the French Revolution.  Then self-made men, following the example of Napoleon, rose in status and wealth.  They had to learn the ways of entertaining, or how to be amphitryons (hosts).

Cook books of the time reflected this non-aristocratic class’ needs, by giving such directions.  A forty-year lapse in the publication of cooking instructions, of any sort, existed prior to the beginning of this period.  One important recipe book, with the dawning of this new day, was Le Cuisinier, by A. Viard; it was published during the entire nineteenth century; its name, however, changed with each fresh political upheaval.

First printed in 1806, Le Cuisinier Imperial was named after the Emperor who loved classicism; Napoleon’s strong passion gave this new style of cooking its name Classic French cuisine.

The book’s title changed to Le Cuisinier Royal, when Louis XVIII became king in 1814.  Other name conversions reflected the politics of the century: it became Le Cuisinier National, at the time Louis Napoleon was elected President of the Republic; then, it went back to employing “Imperial”, when this man declared himself Emperor Napoleon III in 1852.  The cook book was known by Le Cuisinier National once again, when France became a republic in 1871; it has remained such; thus, this recipe for buttered carrots, taken from these pages, dates back two centuries.

In 1964, Esther Aresty documented the history of European and American cuisine in her account The Delectable Past, from which I got my above information. Here she improved on this delicious recipe from Le Cuisinier by pureeing this vegetable in a food mill.  I have augmented her outstanding method with easy, modernized, 21st century steps, utilizing a food processor.

You’ll be immensely pleased with this memorable dish; a comfort food of all comfort foods!

Carrots au Beurre  Adapted from a recipe in Esther B. Aresty’s  The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964).  Yields 4 servings.  Total prep time: 50 min./  active prep time: 20 min./  cooking time: 45 min.   Note: may make this the day before, as flavors are better the second day; double recipe for great leftovers.

½ cup pecan pieces

1 pound carrots  (Organic  carrots are very inexpensive.)

2 cups green beans  (Use either fresh or frozen;  excellent French-cut beans are available in Trader Joe’s freezer.)

1/4 cup whipping cream

2 tbsp butter

1 tsp fresh ground nutmeg, or to taste

1/2 tsp salt, or to taste  (Real Salt is best, available in health section of local supermarket.)

1/4 tsp pepper, or to taste

Butter or coconut spray  (Needed for oiling pan, if making ahead and refrigerating.)

  1. Preheat oven to 265 degrees. Roast pecans on a small cookie sheet for about 40 minutes, or until light brown, when piece is broken; set aside.
  2. Spray carrots with 97% distilled white vinegar mixed with 3% hydrogen peroxide, an inexpensive effective produce spray; let sit three minutes; rinse thoroughly; scrape with a sharp knife (scraping, as opposed to peeling, saves the vitamins which are just under the skin).  Cut into 1 inch pieces; if the carrot piece is thick, cut it in half.
  3. Cover cut vegetable with water in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil over medium/high heat, lower heat to medium, and cook until soft.
  4. Meantime steam green beans in a medium saucepan.  (If you are making carrots ahead, prepare green beans during last half hour of  the reheating of carrot dish in oven.)
  5. Place the hot, drained, soft carrots in a food processor; add cream, butter, nutmeg, salt, and pepper; blend until carrots are a smooth mixture, stopping once to scrape down sides.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  (IF preparing ahead, butter a baking dish large enough to hold recipe; then, place pureed vegetable in it; cover well with tin foil; refrigerate; reheat in 350 degree oven 1 1/2 hours before serving.)
  6. Place hot pureed carrots in the center of a vegetable platter, surround with green beans, and top with roasted pecans.

Chicken a l’Oignon

Preparation of Chicken a l'Oignon

preparation of Chicken a l’Oignon

I will be giving easy recipes for a complete 19th century French dinner over the next three posts.  The main entrée for this meal is Chicken a l’Oignon (chicken with onion); this receipt was created by Louis Eustache Ude, chef to King Louis XVI, at the time of the French Revolution.

Our chef of renown escaped France during the tumult and moved to England; here he wrote the cookbook The French Cook, published in 1813.  His English was poor; thus, he lapsed into his native tongue when he couldn’t recall the proper English words; the title Chicken a l’Oignon demonstrates this trait of Ude.

His food preparations tended to be very simple and exceptionally elegant, of which the following is a perfect example.  Here thinly sliced onion is stuffed under the skin over the breast meat of a roaster; you do this by gently making a cavity under the skin with your hand; hence, the onion juices seep into this succulent meat, as it is roasted to perfection.  The results are tantalizing!

The ease with which you make this dish will astound you. Trust me it will become a family favorite.

Be sure to save the carcass for bone broth; instructions for this are given in Tortellini Soup (2016/10/10); meanwhile freeze your leftover carcasses, until you have the needed three for the recipe.

Note: Bone broth is a power food, extremely high in protein; it is packed with nutrients that aid the digestive system and build up your adrenal glands; one cup of regular chicken stock has one gram of protein, while one cup of bone broth has nine grams of this essential food item!  The manner of preparation makes all the difference in producing these two diverse broths.  Buying prepared bone broth is highly expensive, while making your own is practically free!

Chicken a l’Oignon   Adapted from a recipe in Esther B. Aresty’s The Delectable Past (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964).  Yields about 5 servings.  Total prep time: about 2 1/4 hr/  active prep time: 10 min/  cooking time: about 1 3/4 hr/  inactive prep time: 15 min.

4 ½-5 pound chicken  (Foster Farms is all-natural and inexpensive.)

1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced thinly

Spray oil

Salt and pepper  (Real Salt is best; available in the health section of your local supermarket.)

Steamed brown rice  (I prefer basmati brown rice.)

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Wash the inside of the chicken.  (Note: it isn’t necessary to wash meat, which is cut; only whole fowl, where blood is caught inside the carcass.)
  3. Cut off excess fat at neck; salt and pepper inside of chicken.
  4. Gently working your hand under the skin, make a cavity between the skin and the breast meat.  Go down into the thigh meat with your fingers, being careful to not tear skin.
  5. Gently stuff onion slices in the cavity over the breast meat, pushing them down over the thigh meat area by the legs.
  6. Using a cheap, canola spray oil, thoroughly spray the inside and top (also the underside of upper rack and edges) of a broiler pan; this makes cleaning extremely easy!
  7. Place chicken on pan, salt and pepper generously.
  8. Put in oven, reducing heat to 350 degrees immediately.  Bake for 20 minutes for each pound; temperature should be 165 degrees when done-legs should move fairly freely and juices should come forth, when skin is pierced.
  9. Remove from oven and let stand for 15 minutes before carving.
  10. Serve with steamed brown rice.