So you've all had Vichyssoise by now. Potatoes, leeks, bla bla bla, snoozefest. It's good but it's not great. Frankly, potatoes don't have quite enough flavour to carry this soup on its own. It's neutral at best, and outright bland at worst. No thanks! And what's even worse is that you don't even brown the freaking leeks. You barely simmer them in the hot fat till they're just transluscent. YAWN.
At Chow, I did my own version of the classic, and made a few significant changes. For one thing, I let the leeks brown. It brings out the subtle sweetness of the leeks. I also used the green parts, which is not only less wasteful than the classic version, but also so much more tasty. Then, instead of potatoes, I used cassava instead.
I have raved about cassava in the past, so I'll spare you the lecture, but think about it. If you've had even just boiled cassava, you'll know that it's got a unique, almost floral aroma going down. Cassava has flavour. Cassava has texture. Cassava has character. (Hey, maybe that's a neat idea for a bumper sticker? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?)
I also used coconut milk at the end, which gave it still more flavour and aroma. All in all, I'd say it was a smashing success, seeing as how it got eaten up fairly quickly.
When washing leeks, I tend to slice them in half length-wise, give 'em a whiz through the slicing blade of the food processor, THEN wash them. Saves a lot of finicky scrubbing. The dirt just flies away.
1 lb leeks, sliced thin, and washed well
3 lbs cassava, peeled, stemmed, and diced
3 TB canola oil (you can use olive oil too if you prefer)
1 1/2 TB salt, reserved
1 tsp black pepper, reserved
2 cups coconut milk
Water, enough to cover the cassava during cooking
In a large pot, sautee the leeks until they're light golden brown. Add the diced cassava, and let the cassava and leeks cook together in the fat until the cassava gets slightly transluscent. Add 1 TB of the salt, and just enough water to cover the cassava.
Let the water come to a rapid boil, then drop down he heat to low, and cover the pot with its lid. Let the soup simmer away slowly for at least one hour. You can check every 20 minutes or so to see that everything is coming along nicely. The cassava should be tender all the way through. If you don't cook it thoroughly, you can end up with an upset tummy, so please make sure that the cassava is cooked through.
Finally, when the cassava is cooked through, turn off the heat, and stir in the coconut milk and black pepper. Taste for salt, and add the final 1/2 TB if needed. If you don't need it, just leave it out. I like my soups to be a bit on the salty side, so I generally bump it up at the end, but some people prefer to let the gentle sweetness of the coconut milk come through instead.
I personally like mine to be whizzed in the blender, and be smooth, but a lot of people prefer it to be chunky, and keep all those textures that you spent all this time working to create with the chopping of all those veggies. Either way is a winner in my eyes.