Vichyssoise; Here’s to Julia Child


There was a sign on the clock in one of my university classrooms: “Time passes; Will you?”

It might have been easier if I had actually attended said class rather than stay in the dorm watching Julia Child cook.

In retrospect, I remember very little of the PoliSci and Econ I was studying, but I remember most of what Julia taught me.

One could argue that skipping classes was time well spent.

It’s been 4 years since her death, a mere 2 days before her 92nd birthday.  We’re not commemorating her death, but honoring her life and celebrating her birth. 

Tomorrow, Lisa, of Champaign Taste is hosting the 3rd Annual Julia Child Birthday Celebration, a blog party remembering Julia Child’s life and passion for good food, good cooking and good eating!

I love the video series, which she considered her greatest contribution to the food world, “The Way to Cook”  (I do hope that gets converted to DVD someday… My videos are getting a tad worn.)

But my current favorite Julia Child book is “Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom”   It’s a little book, only 125 pages long, but it has so very much information. 

“Essential techniques and recipes from a lifetime of cooking.”

It’s full of tips and, as I read them, I hear her voice.

Separating and peeling garlic: “… bang down on the head with your fist…”

Butterfly a chicken:  “…pound on the breast with your fist to flatten the chicken.”

Proper frying pan: “Get yourself a good, solid pan. ….This is not the fancy “gourmet” type pan, and you’ll most often find it in a hardware store.”

As to the recipes… Well, they’re not recipes so much as knowledge.

“Once you have mastered a technique, you hardly need look at a recipe again”

“Meat, poultry, and fish – each is unique, but so many of them cook in almost the same way.”

It was (in my opinion) never her intention to leave a legacy of recipes but rather a body of knowledge to be applied by each individual as suits his or her needs and experience.

She wanted to teach people how to eat well by cooking well.

Not how to open cans and heat in order to make dinner in 10 minutes.

In her honor I made something from the very first page of the book; what she refers to as a ‘primal soup’.

Well, actually, to quote her words: “It’s a variation” of the primal soup….


Vichyssoise (Cold Leek and Potato Soup)
The addition of cream or milk to finish gives it a rich texture. If you can stand the calories, heavy  cream really makes a luscious soup….  This serves 2

2 medium leeks, (4oz, 120gr) about 1 cup roughly chopped
2 small – medium potatoes, (6oz, 180gr) about 1 cup roughly chopped
1 tbs butter
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/4 – 1/2 cup milk or cream
2 tbs snipped fresh chives

Clean leeks – Slice off the top leaving about an inch of pale green, then slice off the stem end. Slice the leek in half the long way. Discard the outer layer (more if it is damaged). Rinse the leek halves under running water, fanning the layers, to get out any remaining sand. Slice leeks thinly (the short way). You want to slice about 3 inches (7.5cm) of each leek. Sauté leeks in butter in medium saucepan, until they are soft.
Peel and chop potatoes. Add to leeks along with chicken stock. You should have enough stock to just cover the potatoes. If necessary add more stock or water. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are done. Remove from heat, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled – or longer…

To serve: Purée soup in blender. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of milk or cream, stirring, until you have desired consistency. Serve, garnishing each bowl with freshly snipped chives.

Thanks, Julia… I’m learning… And am I ever enjoying the journey to good food!

9 thoughts on “Vichyssoise; Here’s to Julia Child”

  1. Katie, what an enjoyable read this post was! Your memories of school and Julia are wonderful. (I had that same sign posted by the clock in several of my childhood classrooms, by the way. I think ours went, “Time is passing — are you?” Same difference, as they say).
    And the vichyssoise — divine. The perfect lunch. I’m dying to eat a bowl now.
    I must get myself a copy of “Kitchen Wisdom” ASAP.
    Thanks so much for participating in the celebration of Julia. You’ve enriched the experience (in more ways than one, ha ha!).

  2. That is a delicious looking soup and a great set of memories. I am a big Julia fan and have every re-run of anything Julia-related being recorded to my DVR while I regularly thumb through Mastering the Art. One can never get too much Julia Child!

  3. Lisa, I can’t believe how often we cut class to watch cooking…. And thanks so much for hosting this great event each year!
    Mike, I’m going to have to get a DVD recorder… (We’re so backwards over here…)
    Zoomie, I just watched her video on making omelets… Simple things done right! (Why can’t I learn that)

  4. Julia along with Elizabeth David my heroes. I loved their books and learnt so much from them My bibles when I was in my 20’s Would you believe I have either lent or lost my MAstering the Art…
    That reminds me I must buy a new one.
    Thanks for the blog. Good luck with the rest of the packing

  5. Very nice: the texture comes across clearly from the photo. I like what you say: “She wanted to teach people how to eat well by cooking well.”

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