Sugar Snap Vichyssoise
Forgive me: I did not take this photo.
(Though, I did cook the subject). It was my birthday and I had been up late the night before, up early that morning cooking up a storm, and directing the arrival of new appliances all whilst using a provisional barbecue side-burner to prepare soup. It’s official, you can master the art of French cooking on the BBQ.
That’s the perfect segue into telling you that this recipe is not completely of my own design. I started with Julia Child’s (et al) vichyssoise base from her seminal “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” The base is simply a potato and leek soup with cream stirred into it and chilled. And, I might add, every major step of this soup is delicious: the hot potato and leek soup (potage parmentier), the same with cream stirred in, the vichyssoise (chilled), and finally, my own addition of coarsely blended sugar snap peas. I also added shallots to the venerable Miss Child’s recipe. She and I both despise cilantro; I feel this brings us close enough that I may tamper ever so slightly with her eminent recipes.
LET IT BE KNOWN: This is a head turner; a taste bud tantaliser. When I served the first batch for lunch it begat a “Best. Soup. Ever.” email. Were I a modest being, I’d blush. The soup is exotic and refreshing, arguably one of the best dishes I’ve ever put together. If you make it yourself, it will seem to your guests considerably more involved than it really is.
I recommend cooking this soup for a lady you are courting or would otherwise like to woo. If I’m dating you and I cooked this recipe at an early stage in our relationship, be sure: I like you. Shame on you if it didn’t get me into your pants. It’s because of girls like you that the phrase “food is good, liquor’s quicker” was invented. I’ve hybridised the method: great food, cheap liquor: get her quicker.
Otherwise, serve as a starter in hot weather or as a light and sustaining luncheon in the summer.
Without further adieu…
SUGAR SNAP PEA VICHYSSOISE (the base):
*Makes 6 to 10 servings depending on portion sizes.
*Be sure to read on for the flourish
Prepare this well in advamce so that it has time to cool and then chill in the fridge.
3 cups Large White Potatoes, skinned, diced.
3 cups Leeks, only the whites, sliced.
4 cups Stock, chicken. This was actually a mistake: the Child recipe called for 1.5 quarts, or, 6 cups. With 4 cups the soup turned out perfectly; I’d go with that.
1 Shallot, diced.
1 cup Whipping Cream, make sure you have some left over for the presentation too.
1 bigish bag fresh Sugar Snap Peas, maybe 500g or more. You can eat them raw and whole; they are so sweet and so cold. Mine came farm fresh from Miss Shannon Duncan: EAT IT.
Combine the potatoes, leeks, shallot, and stock and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to simmer the veggies until tender. This should take about 45 minutes. Check that you don’t overcook.
While still hot, add a pinch of salt, a few turns of freshly ground pepper, and blend the soup until smooth. You can do this many ways. I will let you choose which. I used a blender. Once smooth put the soup into a mixing bowl and stir the cream in slowly.
Cover and let cool. Put the soup in the fridge for at least two hours so that it will chill through.
When your guests arrive and you are just about ready to serve your first course, get your vichyssoise and your sugar snap peas out of the fridge. If the soup base is still warm it is NOT vichyssoise and, ‘your father smelt of elderberries.’ Go back to cocktails until the soup is COLD. It is at this point that I hope that your original blending method was by blender; it will be most convenient now. Assuming your kitchen is appointed with such a majestic device, half fill the blending jug with vichyssoise and add a handfull of sugar snap peas removing only their stalks. Pulse until the peas are fairly well blended, but not as well blended as the vichyssoise. A few small chunks should be visible.
Pour the soup into bowls and quickly do the following, quickly because it must be fresh:
FRESH SNOW PEA SALAD GARNISH (the flourish):
Fresh Snow Peas, the amount depends on how many portions of soup you are serving: about 8 to 10 snow peas per soup serving.
High quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil, not a cooking oil.
1 Fresh Lemon
Thinly slice the snow peas lengthwise (matchstick-thin at least). Throw the sliced peas into a mixing bowl and drizzle over enough olive oil to coat the peas once you toss them. Pour over the juice of a freshly squeezed lemon: the amount will depend on how many snow peas you use. Squeezing one or two wedges is probably sufficient. Mix well. A big whisk works best as a mixing implement because it will toss the delicate snow pea slices without crushing them.
If you are using small deep bowls for the soup, pour in a quick drizzle of whipping cream in a circlular fashion in the center of the soup. Add a large pinch of the snow pea salad, grind two turns of fresh pepper over top, and garnish with a sprig of watercress.
If you are using larger bowls, especially shallow and wide bowls with a wide rim, use closer to a handfull of snow pea salad and pour a whipped cream design around it if there is space. If not, do as directed for a small bowl. Don’t forget the pepper and the watercress.
* A wine pairing for this dish is not yet clear to me. On a hot day I’d hazard going with a lighter white wine; perhaps a pinot grigio. But I f*cking hate white wine and it may be too tart for the soup. I have every urge to recommend a sauterne to accompany the sweetness that the sugar snap peas lend to the soup and to highlight the richness of the cream. Regardless, the lemon tartness of the snow pea salad should compliment a pinot grigio. I’d expect either to work. It depends on your preference and style, I suppose.
Good luck with the ladies. May they be voluptuary in their tender wiles and devious curvatures.