I adore chilled soups during the hot summer months and often wonder why restaurants don’t serve more of them, or people make them more often. Nothing could be more refreshing, and filling. Make a big batch of cold soup and keep it in the fridge for quick lunches, cooling snack or part of a simple salad or sandwich supper.
I often make for myself a big pot of classic white potato and leek vichyssoise and dip out of it all week. So I am not really sure why it took me so long to get around to a sweet potato version. Though normally thought of as a cold-weather food, my favorite Southern tuber is a natural match for the cold soup treatment, as we sure do know a lot about hot weather down here. This soup is very simple with the earthy sweetness of the potatoes is balanced by leeks. Herbaceous rosemary and bay and exotic clove add an extra layer of flavor and a wonderful, mysterious aroma. Don’t be tempted to leave them out.
The vibrant orange color of this creamy soup makes it a showstopper on the table. I have served it at seated dinner parties and casual gatherings. If you were so inclined, it would make an interesting soup shot passed as an hors d’oeuvres. I love to sprinkle each bowl with some chopped honey roasted peanuts for a little texture and a sweet-salty finish, plush some chives for color and to complement the leeks.
Sweet potato vichyssoise
3 medium leeks, white and light green parts, to make 4 cups chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup white wine [editor’s note: can substitute same amount with vegetable or chicken broth]
2 medium sweet potatoes, about 2 pounds
4 cups vegetable stock
3 cups water
2 stalks fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 cup heavy cream
finely chopped honey roasted peanuts for garnish
finely chopped chives
1. Slice the white and lightest green parts of the leeks into halves lengthwise, then into thin half moons.
2. Place the leek slices in a strainer submerged in a bowl of water and shake around a bit to loosen any dirt. Let the leeks sit for a few minutes while you melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Then remove the strainer and shake out excess water. Drop the leeks into the pot and stir. Sauté until the leeks begin to soften, then pour in the wine [or 1 cup broth], cover the pot and cook for about 8 minutes, until the leeks are soft.
3. Uncover the pot and cook for a few minutes to reduce the wine until it barely coats the leeks. Do no let the leeks brown.
4. While the leeks are softening, chop the peeled sweet potatoes into small chunks. Add to the softened leeks with the water, broth and a good sprinkling of salt. Tie the rosemary, bay leaves and cloves up into a little cheesecloth package or place in a tea strainer ball and drop in the pot. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium – low, cover and simmer for 25 – 30 minutes until the potatoes and leeks are very soft.
5. Remove the pot from the heat and leave to cool to room temperature.
6. Remove the herb package.
7. Puree the soup in batches in a blender, filling the blender about half-full each time. Pour each pureed batch into a bowl. When all the soup is pureed, whisk in the cream. Cover the bowl loosely and refrigerate for at least two hours but preferably overnight.
8. Taste for salt and season before serving, garnished with chopped honey roasted peanuts and chives.
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