One hot, one cold

This week I’d like to return to the topic of soups. I’m something of a soup addict and among my favorites are shrimp bisque and Vichyssoise.

An inviting bowel of cool Vichyssoise

An inviting bowel of cool Vichyssoise

Bisque is a smooth, creamy and highly seasoned soup that originated in France.  It can be made from lobster, crab or shrimp.

It has a smooth consistency achieved by pureeing and an alcoholic beverage such as white wine, sherry, or cognac is usually added.

Soaking up the bisque with crusty French bread

Soaking up the bisque with crusty French bread

It’s thought the name is derived from Biscay, as in the Bay of Biscay, which lies along the western coast of France from Brest south to the Spanish border.

Ritz-Carlton in New York - birth place of Vichyssoise

Ritz-Carlton in New York – birth place of Vichyssoise

Although its name is French name, Vichyssoise (visheeswaz) appears to have Its origins in the US. It’s thought to have been created in 1917 by Louis Diat,  a celebrated French chef at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York City.

Celebrated French chef Louis Diat

Celebrated French chef Louis Diat

In a 1950 interview with the New Yorker magazine he said “In the summer of 1917, when I had been at the Ritz seven years, I reflected upon the potato and leek soup of my childhood which my mother and grandmother used to make. I recalled how during the summer my older brother and I used to cool it off by pouring in cold milk and how delicious it was. I resolved to make something of the sort for the patrons of the Ritz”.
Diat named it ‘crème vichyssoise glacée’ (chilled cream vichyssoise),[ after Vichy, a spa town near his birthplace in France that is famous for both its exceptional food and its springs. The new item enjoyed ‘instant success’. American steel magnate, Charles Schwab, was the first to sample vichyssoise and asked for a second serving.

Vichyssoise is not only delicious, but very cooling – just the job in the hot weather we are currently experiencing.

Here are the recipes I use for both soups.

Bon Appétit!

Shrimp Bisque

  • 600gr large shrimp, peeled and deveined (keep the shells and heads)
  • 4 cups seafood stock
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (3 leeks)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic (3 cloves)
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup good quality Cognac or brandy
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 4 tablespoons  unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk cream
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper


Place the shrimp shells and seafood stock in a saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and reserve the stock. Add enough water to make 3 3/4 cups.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan. Add the leeks and cook them for 10 minutes over medium-low heat, or until the leeks are tender but not browned. Add the garlic and cook 1 more minute. Add the cayenne pepper and shrimp and cook over medium to low heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the Cognac and cook for 1 minute, then the sherry and cook for 3 minutes longer. Transfer the shrimp and leeks to a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until coarsely pureed.

In the same saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook over medium-low heat for 1 minute, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the milk and cream and cook, stirring with a whisk, until thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the pureed shrimp, the stock, tomato paste, salt, and pepper and heat gently until hot but not boiling. Season, to taste, and serve hot.


2 Leeks, chopped
1 Onion, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup thinly sliced potatoes
2 1/3 cups chicken stock
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 1/8 cups heavy whipping cream


Gently sweat the chopped leeks and the chopped onion in butter until soft, about 8 minutes. Do NOT let them brown.

Add potatoes and stock to the saucepan. Salt and pepper to taste; do not overdo them. Bring to the boil, and simmer very gently for 30 minutes.

Puree in a blender or food processor until very smooth. Cool. Gently stir in the cream before serving.

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