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July 22, 2014

Dive in to a big bowl of cold soup this summer

The sun is blazing. The sweat is dripping. The air feels as if it is sticking to your skin.

The sun is blazing. The sweat is dripping. The air feels as if it is sticking to your skin.

Hey, how about a nice big bowl of soup?

No, seriously. Soup is good food. Especially in the summer, when the soup is cold.

Summer soup is different from winter soup. Winter soup is heavy, substantial, serious. It sticks to your ribs.

But summer soup is light, frivolous, festive. It cools you down from the inside out. And if it is the right soup, it can even be a little bit sweet and no one will complain.

Vichyssoise is simple and pure — and one of the all-time great French dishes that isn’t actually French.

That’s right. Vichyssoise (I just learned this, and I’m dying to share it) was invented in 1917 at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in New York City.

Chef Louis Diat liked to create a new hot-weather recipe every summer, and that year he thought about the leek-and-potato soup his mother used to serve when he was growing up in Bourbon-l’Archambault, about 40 miles from the town of Vichy. When she served leftover soup, she would thin it out with cream.

It is that idea, leek-and-potato soup mixed with cream and chilled, that is the essence of vichyssoise.

Because it was created in America, I decided to make a distinctly American version of it by adding corn to the potatoes and leeks or onions. This idea came from Jacques Pepin who, like Diat, is a French chef living in America. That makes it a French-American version of a French-American dish.

And it is terrific.

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