Side Orders: Our Easter meal starts with cold potato soup

Easter dinner in our house always begins with a chilled soup. Even if the weather outside isn't exactly springlike, it's a welcome reminder that warmer days are on the way. But mainly, it's because a cold first course can be made ahead and, as a bonus, is often the better for it as the flavors marry.

When thinking of chilled soups, the most common is vichyssoise, a cold soup that has become practically synonymous with the idea.

It may seem a bit old-fashioned, having been around for more than a century and having been done to death by "creative cooks" in the 1970s and '80s. But when carefully and well made, vichyssoise is a satisfying and delicious beginning for any meal. Well, perhaps not breakfast.

(READ MORE: Chattanooga-area cooks supply recipes for Fehn's potato soup, more)

It's often argued that this iconic soup is really American because it is commonly believed to have been created at New York's Ritz Hotel, where it was more of a creamy soup rather than the cold tomato-based soup we commonly associate with vichyssoise, or so I've heard through the years.

Regardless of where it was first made and served, it's a very simple soup, but like some simple things, it requires more care than less. Lavish it with all the care that you can and rediscover why it remains a timeless classic.

Your goal is to make a soup that's snowy white. But what matters more than appearances is flavor, and there's a lot more of that to be had when the pale inner greens of leeks are included and the potatoes are chosen for the way they taste rather than their lack of color.

(READ MORE: Potato soup with cheese)

I hope all of you have a wonderful Easter and that you'll enjoy having the soup as a starter to your meal. Make it on Friday or Saturday so it will be good and cold and full of flavor on Easter Sunday.

Creamy Vichyssoise

4 large leeks

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium yellow onion, trimmed, split, peeled and thinly sliced (about generous 1 cup)

4 cups (5-6 medium) peeled and thinly sliced Yukon Gold potatoes,

About 4 cups water

Kosher or sea salt

1/2 -1 teaspoon white pepper

1 cup whole milk

1 cup cream

3 tablespoons thinly sliced chives or tender inner leek greens, for garnish

To clean the leeks, lay one flat on a cutting board and slice off the root without removing the root base. With the knife blade held parallel to the board, carefully cut it in half lengthwise. Holding each half, root end up, under running water, bend back the layers and wash away all the sand and dirt between them. Drain it well, and thinly slice both the white and pale tender greens. You should have about 3 cups.

Warm the butter in a heavy-bottomed 4-quart saucepan or enameled iron Dutch oven over low heat. Add the onion and leeks, and sweat until they're softened and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the potatoes and enough water to barely but completely cover them. Add a generous pinch of salt, raise the heat to medium high, and bring it to a boil. Adjust the heat to a steady simmer, and cook until the potatoes are tender and easily pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes.

Let it cool for a few minutes, then puree the soup in batches with a blender or food processor. It will be quite thick. Transfer it to a bowl, and stir until cooled. Season lightly with salt and white pepper, then taste and adjust the seasonings. Let it cool completely, then cover tightly and refrigerate until it's well chilled, at least 4 hours. It can be made 2-3 days ahead.

When you are ready to serve, stir in the milk and cream. If it seems a little too thick, thin it with chilled water, not more milk. Taste and adjust the salt. To serve, ladle it into chilled bowls or cups, and garnish with a sprinkling of chives or leek greens and a light grinding of white pepper.


The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is spearheading the third annual Food Waste Prevention Week April 1-7. Among the efforts is a statewide food drive, aimed at improving food security, through April 14. In Southeast Tennessee, there are drop-off sites in Bledsoe, Bradley, Marion and Sequatchie counties.

(READ MORE: Fight to curb food waste increasingly turns to science)

Food Waste Prevention Week will begin in Nashville with a panel discussion of local experts (streamed also as a webinar) and chef demonstration to follow.

The week will culminate with events in Memphis, Nashville and Chattanooga on April 6 in which brewers partner with local bakeries to take unsold bread and turn it into a brew to raise awareness about food waste. Chattanooga's Bread-to-Tap event is noon-4 p.m. at Oddstory Brewing, 1604 Central Ave.

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