variations on a theme: potage parmentier

tips for tuesday
notes from maggie's farm

The beauty of a master recipe, is that with just a flick of the wrist, or a flick of the whisk as it may be,  you've taken it to a new level, with the addition of a few key ingredients.  The suggestions below, from the original recipe from Julia Child, in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Child, Beck, and Bertholle, are just a beginning.  Yesterday, we began with the basics.  Today, let your imagination take over with these suggestions, and more.  

I've taken to running the original recipe through a china cap, or chinoise, a type of fine sieve, and prior to adding the cream,  freezing the base.  Without the potato solids and cream, it freezes quite well.  I've got myself a quickie soup with the addition of whatever's fresh in the garden, or the market.  Add a small salad, or a crusty piece of fresh bread, and no one need be the wiser that you haven't slaved away all day on this veritable feast for peasant and prince, alike.

Potate au Cresson (Water-cress Soup)
This simple version of water-cress soup is very good.
Serves 6 to 8 people
Ingredients are the same as for the leek and potato soup, omitting cream enrichment until later and adding ¼ lb or about 1 packed cup of water-cress leaves and tender stems.
Follow the preceding master recipe, but before puréeing the soup, stir in the water cress and simmer for 5 minutes. Then purée in a food mill and correct seasoning. Off heat and just before serving, stir in 4 to 6 Tb cream or 2 to 3 Tb butter by spoonfuls. Decorate with the optional water-cress leaves.
Vichyssoise (Cold Leek and Potato Soup)
This is an American invention based on the leek and potato soup in the preceding master recipe.
Serves 6 to 8 people
Ingredients are the same as for the leek and potato soup with the addition of 3 cups peeled and sliced potatoes, 3 cups sliced white of leek, and 1½ quarts of white stock chicken stock, or canned chicken broth.
Simmer the vegetables in stock or broth instead of water as described in the master recipe. Purée the soup either in the electric blender, or through a food mill and then through a fine sieve. Stir in ½ to 1 cup cream. Season to taste, over salting very slightly as salt loses savor in a cold dish. Chill. Serve in chilled soup cups and decorate with minced chives.
Other Variations on Leek and Potato Soup:
Using the master recipe for leek and potato soup, a cup or two of one or a combination of the following vegetables may be added as indicated. Proportions are not important here, and you can use your imagination to the full. Many of the delicious soups you eat in French homes and little restaurants are made just this way, with a leek-and-potato base to which leftover vegetables or sauces and a few fresh items are added. You can also experiment on your own combinations for cold soups, by stirring a cup or more of heavy cream into the cooked soup, chilling it, then sprinkling on fresh herbs just before serving. You may find you have invented a marvelous concoction, which you can keep as a secret of the house.
To be simmered or cooked in the pressure cooker with the potatoes and leeks or onions at the start: Sliced or diced carrots or turnips; peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes, or strained canned tomatoes; half-cooked dried beans, peas, or lentils, including their cooking liquid.
To be simmered for 10 to 15 minutes with the soup after it has been puréed: Fresh or frozen diced cauliflower, cucumbers, broccoli, Lima beans, peas, string beans, okra, or zucchini; shredded lettuce, spinach, sorrel, or cabbage.
To be heated in the soup just before serving: Diced, cooked leftovers of any of the preceding vegetables; tomatoes, peeled, seeded, juiced, and diced.

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