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Community Table from Epicurious

from Epicurious

Take your place at the table


Here it is.
I’m ready.

I stopped making New Year’s resolutions a long time ago. I don’t make too many finite rules for myself, in general. I hate fooling myself or disappointing myself. Making decrees that seem unrealistic for the long term and then breaking those rules as a result is, I think, an unhealthy practice. There are, however, broad, general, obtuse sorts of things I’d like to see more or less of at the start of each year.

I’d like to get more exercise (but I really hate exercise).
I’d like to want to exercise more.
I’d like to drink more water, and perhaps a skosh less wine.
I’d like to read and write more.
I’d like to see more movies in theaters.
I’d like to push myself more in the kitchen.
I’d like to travel more.
I’d like to see myself save some money.
I’d like to stay in better touch with friends and family that I don’t get to see often/ever.
I’d like that to mean that I will send cards and write letters.
I’d like to be calmer and more flowy, in general.

Most of these things seem reasonable enough. The exercise one is questionable. So is the wine one. And the calm and flowy. We’ll see.

One of the things Fred and I have been doing in the kitchen lately is play sort of a Chopped game with our approach to dinner. I’ll pick three to five seemingly disparate items (usually things in the refrigerator that need to get used for fear of waste) and putting together a complete meal with them. One night it was duck breast, savoy cabbage, rice leftover from Chinese food delivery and sausage. Fred made seared duck breast over a fried rice with sausage and cabbage that was extraordinary.

Another time the items were salmon, coconut milk, scallions, avocado and parsley. We marinated the salmon in coconut milk, pan roasted it and topped it with a avocado-parsley cream. It’s fun, challenging and ensures very little goes into the trash bin/compost that we don’t have.

Last night the items were a leek, a potato, buttermilk, sour cream and some fennel from the garden. All of the items save for the fennel were on the brink of getting tossed. As I looked over the items for my challenge it was so very obvious. Soup. Plus, I could finally get a chance to use my Christmas present from Fred; my new Vitamix blender (!). He had used it the night before making the parsley-avocado cream, but I had not messed with it, yet. Perfecto.

As I tossed the chopped leek into the melted butter, the idea fully came together; I was going to make a buttermilk vichyssoise with fennel. When I got to the part where I dumped everything into the blender - hot - I was scared and excited. It did not explode hot liquid all over me and it even managed to fully blend the fennel fronds. In less than thirty seconds I had a silky smooth, velvety, perfectly pureed, beautiful, perky bright green soup.

I’ve said it many times here, but soup really is my favorite thing to make. It can be as comforting, elegant, rustic, hearty, simple, complex, delicate, chunky, smooth, hot, cold, big or little as you want it to be. It goes with every meal and every season. And the garnish is always so fun to decide. It’s like that hat or scarf that just makes the outfit.

This soup, a vichyssoise, is kind of all of those things: simple yet complex, delicate yet hearty, elegant yet rustic. It can even be served hot or cold. This soup calls for any manner of garnishes. Chives , creme fraiche, a simple buttery crouton, or maybe you want to really dress it up - with a sliver of smoked salmon and a small dollop of caviar. Now that really makes the outfit.

I guess with my new kitchen toy I am accomplishing at least one of the things I’d like to see more of in 2013 - I am pushing myself more in the kitchen already. If this soup didn’t go so perfectly with any number of white wines I might be able to start accomplishing another one of the things on that list...


  • Buttermilk Vichyssoise with Fennel

  • Serves 6


  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 leek, white and light-green parts only, halved lengthwise then thinly sliced into half-moons, washed well and drained
  • 1 large white potato, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup chopped fennel bulb & fronds
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche
  • Smoked salmon and caviar (for garnish)


Melt butter in a stockpot over medium-low heat. 
Add leek, and cook, covered, until tender, about 15 minutes.
Add potatoes and stock. Bring to a boil; simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in fennel and cook for about 5-7 more minutes.
Working in batches, puree soup in a blender until smooth. Transfer pureed soup to a large bowl. 
Season with salt and white pepper. Stir in sour cream and buttermilk just before serving. Adjust seasoning as needed. 
If necessary, thin the soup with a bit more chicken stock or water to achieve desired consistency. 
Garnish with a sliver of smoked salmon and a tiny drop of caviar.
May be served hot or cold. 

Printable recipe.

One year ago: Cheebo
Two years ago: Vinegar-Braised Chicken with Garlic & Celery Leaves
Three years ago: Carrot Soup with Ginger & Cumin
FIVE years ago: Dominick's


Read the original on: F for Food

F for Food, Elliott Shaffner

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I write about all things food. And wine. There is often wine. I eat and drink and write my way through recipes and restaurants everywhere I go in the world, and in my kitchen.