Spring Vegetable Potage: a French Pureed Soup
Years ago, I spent a summer as an au pair for a lovely French family at their summer home in Cahor. Summer chateau, that is. The extended family gathered there, and grandmother made a simple, country supper every evening. Each meal was built around a rustic potage, a simple feat of culinary expertise for a thick soup that combined the odd ends of vegetables and greens, and that was different every evening.
Add a selection of cheeses, a baguette, and a bottle of red wine, and that, mon copain, is that.
Mastering a spring vegetable potage should be on every home cook’s repertoire. Make it simple. Give yourself permission to experiment. You can always add a little more wine.
Spring Vegetable Potage Port City
- 64 oz chicken stock
- 1/2 yellow onion
- 2 cups leeks or 1 cup celery, or a combination
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 10 gold potatoes, scrubbed and trimmed
- 3 large carrots
- Whatever else is in your market basket
- Make chicken stock using Knorr bouillon cubes, Maggi cubes, or “bouillon de poule.” Boil 64 oz (8 cups) water. Crush 8 cubes and dissolve in the boiling water. You can also use two 32 oz cartons of chicken stock. Of course, you can make your own stock. Set the stock aside.
- Make your potage vegetarian by substituting vegetable stock. Of course, you can make your own stock, but I promise you, for daily French home cooking, Knorr is the way to go.
- Dice 1/2 yellow onion, 2 cups of leeks or celery, 3 cloves of garlic. In a large enamel pot, saute until soft in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir in 1 tablespoon of Herbes de Provence. Add 1/2 cup of dry white wine. Or flat champagne. This is a great way to use that bottle that you didn’t quite finish, and that lingers in your fridge.
- Add 10 gold potatoes, scrubbed with a brush, trimmed, and cut into large chunks. You don’t need to peel them if you clean them well and cut off any coarse spots.
- Add 3 large carrots, cut into large chunks.
- Check your vegetable bin or basket. Anything else look good? Do you have ends of vegetables (not cooked) from other recipes, or a random turnip? A handful of spinach? Clean, chop, and throw it in there. If you are using green beans, destring them. You will have to time the addition of your vegetables by how long they take to cook. Longer cooking vegetables should be cut into smaller pieces.
- Pour in the chicken stock. It should cover your vegetables with about 1/2 inch to spare. The right proportion of stock to vegetables will contribute to the correct consistency of your pureed potage. Stir gently to combine.
8. Bring to a boil, then lower to simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes. You want the vegetables to be soft, but not mushy. Don’t over do it!
9. Your potage now looks like a chunky vegetable soup. Using a potato masher carefully mash the large chunks in your soup. Remember, it’s super hot, so go slowly. Using an immersion blender on low, then high, continue to puree the soup. This is a rustic soup, so it doesn’t need to be perfectly smooth, but you do want all the lumps to disappear. The goal is to have a full bodied, velvet textured puree.
10. Salt and pepper to taste.
11. Ladle the potage into large flat bowls and garnish with a swirl of heavy cream, a spoonful of creme fraiche, and a sprinkle of fresh herbs, like chives or parsley. It’s all about what you have on hand, so don’t overthink it.
Serve with French baguette, cheese, and a side salad.
A couple of tips:
A rustic country Spring vegetable potage can be different every time you make it. The base should be potatoes or squash, but you can get creative from there. One of the leading topics of conversation at the dinner table will be guests trying to guess what you have added that makes it so delicious. This is part of the fun, we promise you.
Don’t add dairy to your soup. Rustic potage is not a cream-based soup. A little buttermilk, creme fraiche (or sour cream) as a garnish is fine, but that’s pretty unusual in the country French kitchen. You’ll get your dairy with the cheese course.
Forget the croutons. Guests should be encouraged to tear their bread into pieces and wipe their bowls with the crust. That’s how it’s really done.