Wine With . . . Sweet Potato Vichyssoise
by Paul Lukacs and Marguerite Thomas
As Julia Child points out in Mastering the Art of French Cooking (vol. 1), vichyssoise is an American invention based on a classic French leek and potato soup. We’ve taken the liberty of tweaking the original a little by using sweet potatoes, but otherwise we’ve stuck pretty closely to the traditional format. Sweet potatoes add lovely color, savory flavors, and a blissfully smooth and creamy texture. True vichyssoise is served cold, and this one is as pretty as it is tasty when presented chilled, topped with snippings of chives and accompanied by flutes of sparkling wine. Served warm it technically is no longer vichyssoise, but it does make a fine first course to a cold weather dinner, and also can be rich and robust enough to be the centerpiece of a simple supper. We’ve found that cold soup is generally more challenging to pair with wine, while the warm variation on the theme proves somewhat more welcoming.
This soup may a day ahead of time if desired. Serve it plain or topped with croutons and/or sour cream. Or add a squeeze of lime juice and a dusting of grated lime peel to add bright, citrusy nuances.
Sweet Potato Vichyssoise
6 tablespoons butter
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
6 cups chicken broth
1½ cups white wine
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper
Melt the butter in a large pot. Trim the leeks (discarding the tough green tops), clean thoroughly, and cut in two-inch pieces. Cook the leeks in the butter over low heat until they are tender (do not let them brown). Add the sweet potatoes, the chicken broth and the wine. Simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes, and remove from the heat. When cool enough to handle puree the mixture in batches in a food processor or blender. Return it to the pan, add the cream and reheat the soup, seasoning to taste.
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This soup, served hot on a cold, wintry evening, turned out to be the rare dish we’ve made over the years for “Wine With” and Wine Review Online that produced real disagreement regarding the best sort of wine pairing. One of us much preferred lush, fruit-filled wines, many with more than a hint of sweetness, finding that they provided a smooth complement to the rich creamy soup. The other one, though, found these wines too flabby, and voted instead for crisp, bright wines with plenty of acidity, arguing that these provided an appealing contrast of both texture and flavor. Discussing the wines brought no closure, as each of us became more convinced we were right. The only thing we could agree on is that the one red wine we tried (a California Pinot Noir) did not work, as the tannins proved intrusive. But as to the whites and sparklers. . . well, we finally just agreed to disagree. If you make this soup, let us know which sort of wine you think pairs best with it. We’re betting against each other as to what you’ll say.