The potage bonne-jemme of the cookbooks (finely sliced leeks and potatoes stewed in butter, moistened with consommé, usually but not always puréed, and finished with milk and either butter or cream—or with both)—that soup which, chilled and richly creamed, has become the American vichysoisse—would come as a surprise to the bearers of the tradition from which it is borrowed. The potato and leek soup that is prepared night after night in the kitchens of nearly every Parisian concierge and in the kitchens of nearly every Île de France working family is nothing more than potatoes and leeks more or less finely sliced or cut up, depending on the bonne femme, boiled in salted water, and served, a piece of butter being either added then to the soup or being put to join the inevitable crust of bread in the soup plate before the boiled vegetables are poured over. It carries within it always the message of well-being and, were my vice and my curiosity more restrained, I, too, would adore to eat it every evening of my life.
Add the vegetables to the salted, boiling water and cook, covered, at a light boil until the potatoes begin to cook apart—or, until, when one is pressed against the side of the saucepan with a wooden spoon, it offers no resistance to crushing—about ½ hour to 40 minutes, depending on the potatoes. Add the butter at the moment of serving, after removal from the heat.
Copyright © 1974 by Richard Olney. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.