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Red Pepper Vichyssoise

Vichyssoise, despite the French name, was invented in America, at a New York French restaurant. Another surprise (to me, anyway): all the versions of vichyssoise I’ve ever loved had ham in the recipe, although not visibly in the soup.

Classic vichyssoise is a cold leek-and-potato soup. But we don’t always have to do the classics. The late Chef Tom Cowman used to do variations with watercress, bell peppers, and other colorful infusions when he was at Restaurant Jonathan and, later, the Upperline. That idea inspires this recipe.

  • 2 lbs. white potatoes
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1 leek, white part only, well washed
  • 1/3 cup finely-chopped ham
  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • 1 pint half-and-half
  • 2 oz. sour cream
  • Snipped chives for garnish

1. Prepare the vegetables carefully. Leave no peel or spots on the potatoes, seeds or membranes in the pepper, or dirt in the leeks. Cube the potatoes and chop the pepper and leek.

2. Bring the stock to a light boil and cook the vegetables with the ham until the potatoes are soft–about 25 minutes.

3. Pour the pot contents into a food processor and puree. Then push the puree through a strainer or a food mill.

4. Heat the half-and-half in the microwave oven on high for two and a half minutes. Stir it into the soup. Whisk in the sour cream, then refrigerate the soup.

Serve chilled, garnished with chives.

Serves four to six.

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