A Tale of Two Soups
Updated: Nov 2, 2022
In the dog days of summer, when turning on the oven or standing over the stove while cranking the air conditioning (I'm in Florida) seems counterproductive, a cold soup or a crockpot soup sounds just wonderful. The house stays cool and so do you.
I confess to being a lifelong fan of Julia Child, and there are few French dishes more iconic that Vichyssoise. A perfect bowl of cold leak and potato soup, often topped with creme fraiche, croutons or even bacon. The taste is creamy, smooth and salty. It is also one of the easiest dishes to make.
Cream of Tomato Soup is as iconic, but with solidly American roots. Many of us grew up with the Campbell's Soup version with a grilled cheese sandwich. As nice as that is, it pales in comparison to a homemade tomato soup. While you can make the soup with fresh tomatoes, you can also make it any time of year with canned Roma tomatoes. It is just the right amount of sweet and sour, creamy and salty. If you serve it with a crunchy grilled cheese, you have one of the great lunches.
Note: You can find links to both these recipes at the end of this page.
My Vichyssoise recipe is inspired by the Julia Child classic, but it is made quickly and easily in the Instant Pot. (If you do not have an Instant Pot, you can use a pressure cooker, or you can simply cook for an extended time on the stovetop with slightly more broth. But don't use a pressure cooker unless you can do so safely and have experience.)
First you will need a bunch of 3-4 medium sized leaks.
Cut off the dark green part and rinse clean. Use a cutting board and cut the end of the leaks, then cut lengthwise in half and slice crosswise in half-moons.
Place these half-moons in a large bowl of cold water and
separate and "swish" the leaks around, then allow to rest for at least 15 minutes. This will allow any sand on the leaks to sink to the bottom. Use a handheld strainer and carefully remove the leaks to a colander without disturbing the water or any sand on the bottom.
There will be sand - and lots of it. This is the bowl after I lifted my leaks out carefully (and I washed the leaks twice before cutting!). There is simply no way to get the sand out of leaks without this step.
Now, chose 3 large Russet Potatoes. You can also use gold potatoes or any other starchy or semi-starchy potato. Do not use a waxy potato. For my money, I would just use a plain Russet potato. For this particular dish, you need starch, or your soup will not thicken properly. Once your potatoes are peeled, dice into 1/2-inch dice and place in a bowl of water until you are ready to cook your soup.
Set your Instant Pot to sauté' and melt 1/4 c. of butter. Add the leaks and cook until soft. Add the potatoes and 2 c. chicken broth. Fix the lid on the Instant Pot, close the release valve and set for 20 minutes. Allow the Instant Pot to release steam naturally and cool.
Once you can open the Instant Pot, take off the lid and allow the soup to cool to warm. Use an immersion blender to puree' until smooth.
If you don't have an immersion blender, make sure your soup is cool and puree' in a blender. Return the soup to the Instant Pot and add 1 c. cream. Set the Instant Pot for warm, and reheat the soup
carefully. Correct for salt and pepper. You will need to use significant salt. If you have white pepper, it won't show. Otherwise, add pepper on top when you serve it.
Allow the vichyssoise to cool and refrigerate. Serve cold, with croutons, bacon, cream fraiche, or your own preference.
Cream of Tomato Soup
Another great soup to help you beat the heat is a classic Cream of Tomato. To make this soup, dice a large sweet yellow onion and a large carrot.
Heat 1/4 c. butter in a nonstick pan on the stove - add the onion and carrot and cook until soft. Put the mixture in a large Crockpot.
Now you need tomatoes. Often, recipes for Tomato Soup call for very expensive cans of Italian tomatoes, such as San Marzano. These tomatoes now cost upwards
of $4 for a 28 ounce can. I prefer a can of Roma tomatoes sold at Walmart and other groceries for around $1.70. The quality is good, but it keeps the cost of a large batch of soup reasonable. Instead of a second can of whole tomatoes, I like to add a 14 ounce can of diced fire-roasted tomatoes. This adds a little smoky tang and creates another layer of flavor. When you add the whole tomatoes, pour in the juice and break up the tomatoes by squeezing them with your hands. (Careful or your kitchen will look like the Red Wedding!)
Add the diced tomatoes and their juice. Now pour in 2 c. of chicken broth, attach the lid and set your crockpot to high. Note: I like the Chicken Broth sold in Sam's Clubs in cartons of 6 at a cost of $1.33 for each 1-quart carton. It is of great quality, and I try to keep several boxes in my pantry at all times.
Cook in the Crockpot for 4 hours, until the carrots are soft. Turn the Crockpot off and allow to cool. Use an immersion blender to blend the soup until it is smooth. If you do not have an immersion blender, let cool completely and puree' in the blender. Return to the Crockpot and add 1/2 c. of cream (or up to a cup). Reheat the soup on high for another 20 minutes.
Serve Cream of Tomato Soup with cream fraiche, croutons, bacon, cheese, or whatever you like. A classic combination is with a Grilled Cheese Sandwich. Enjoy!
Can we Afford these Dishes?
Leaks $ 4.00
Potatoes $ 0.35
Broth $ 0.70
Cream $ 1.00
$6.05 ($1.51 per serving)
Cream of Tomato Soup
Carrot $ 0.25
Onion $ 0.33
Tomatoes, Whole $ 1.69
Tomatoes, Diced $ 1.00
Broth (2 c.) $ 0.70
Cream $ 1.00
$ 4.97 ($1.24 per serving)
I hope your kitchens stay cool and your hearts stay warm in these long summer days. Place these soups in the refrigerator for 3-5 days and enjoy cold or hot. If Julia were here, she would say "Bon Appetit!"