One especially hot afternoon in 1917, in New York city, the first class hotels (which were not yet equipped with air conditioning) launched the Roof Gardens, terraces cleverly lit and decorated with flowers and plants so that their customers could dine outdoor.
In the early twentieth century, the then-new Ritz-Carlton of New York, located at the corner of Madison and 46th Street, aspired to serve the best food (the best rooms, the best service…) to compete with the famous Waldorf Astoria. That was the reason why Cesar Ritz insisted on to send him from France one of the best chefs of the Ritz on the Place Vendôme. The chosen was the young chef Louis Diat.
In 1917 chef Louis Diat tried to put the finishing touches to the menu that the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Terrasse Fleurie would serve to its customers. Diat didn’t want to lose their good reputation serving dishes that may seem too ordinary or cheap to their clientele. Reviewing his notes and memories something came to his mind, without really knowing why, the leeks soup his mother, Annette Diat Alajoinine, used to make when he was a child. It was good and it was healthy.
But later on he abandoned the idea, though. Because it was too hot for a dish like that; so he forgot that the remains of his preparation had been stored in the fridge … Suddenly he hit upon the idea of serving it cold. He recalled that one summer when, “the soup was too hot, so he and his brother asked their mother for some milk to cool it down” This memory inspired him to make a soup called “Crème Vichyssoise” In fact; the name at that time was Crème Vichyssoise Glacée or also Chilled Cream Vichyssoise. Why Vichyssoise? Because Diat was from Montmarault a town very close to Vichy and they need to name it after a famous city.
Today there are many recipes for Vichyssoise, so to find the original recipe we have to go to an article published in Gourmet Magazine in January 1951 entitled, The Ritz in Retrospect. There we find the recipe of “Crème Vichyssoise Glacée” of Louis Diat, with the only difference (accepted by the author) of using a blender, because originally it was necessary to pass the soup through a fine sieve.
Anyway…, enjoying the visit of some relatives from France, I decided to have them and my in-laws over for lunch last Sunday. Well, this cream was our entrée and even the refined palate of my French guests was unable to resist its incredible flavor, I hope you like it too 😉
Ingredients for 8 people:
- 4 leeks – trim the ends, dark green.
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes (3 cups)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups low-fat milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- White pepper and fresh chives for garnish.
Cut leeks lengthwise, wash and chop into large pieces to have about 2 cups and a half. In a saucepan, sauté the leeks and onion in butter without browning. Stir occasionally, until leeks are tender, and then add the potatoes, 4 cups water and salt. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Add milk and bring mixture to a boil while stirring, then turn off the heat and let cool slightly. Puree the soup in small batches in a blender or an immersion blender until smooth. Pour the soup into a bowl and refrigerate. Just before serving, add cream and stir. Garnish with chopped chives and season with salt and pepper.