Archive for the ‘potatoes’ Category

Giselle’s Potage

It’s kind of a “garbage” soup, meaning you can put pretty much any vegetable you like in it. The base is potato, onion, and water. Julia Child’s version uses four parts potato to three parts onion, but Mom never used that much onion. I normally use around six big potatoes and one large onion. Mom’s secret, which I always follow, is to also use one small- to medium-sized white turnip. It adds a little sweetness. Don’t use yellow turnips; they’ll turn it treacly. I add a carrot or two for color. But if you want only white soup, you can skip it. If you use any other vegetables, use them in very limited quantity, to keep the basic character of the potage. And don’t use parsnip: I tried once, and it makes it gummy.

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cooking Time: 60-75 minutes
  • Servings: 8


6 large potatoes
1 large onion
1 small white turnip
3-6 tbsp heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste



  1. Peel and chop everything into roughly equal sizes, put it in a soup pot and add water to cover.
  2. Heat to a boil, skim any fuzz off the top, then lower to a simmer and add salt and lots of pepper. Let it cook for an hour or so, or until you can easily mash the hardest vegetable (usually the carrots) against the side of the pot with the back of a wooden spoon.
  3. If it looks too watery, pour the extra water out and keep it aside. You can always add it back in if you miscalculated.
  4. Then you want to refine it a little. Mom liked it very smooth and used to run it through a blender. I prefer putting it through a food mill, twice. I remember Karen once mashing it into small bits, and that was good too.
  5. Finally, you need to bind it. I like heavy cream because the taste is lovely. Three tablespoons works for me, but Julia Child recommends four to six. If you don’t have that, Mom would add butter or even olive oil.

Serving Notes

Serve it with bread and salad, and you have a dinner. Some vegetables (like cauliflower) invite cheese. It keeps fine for a few days.

Simple Potato and Cheese Lunch or Dinner

Raclette-PotatoThis isn’t a recipe but rather a meal idea. Switzerland, where I live, has a fairly restrained indigenous cuisine. The dish most outsiders know is fondue. There is also something called raclette, which involves melting a special kind of cheese and eating that with boiled potatoes and pickled vegetables.

Raclette is actually delicious. But it requires an apparatus to melt and scrape the cheese. That means somebody is stuck doing the melting, and everybody else is sort of waiting. It’s hard to tuck in and eat.

There’s a variation on the theme where you just boil a lot of potatoes (in their jackets), keep them warm in a cloth-lined basket, then set out some cheeses, maybe one pickle or salad-type dish, and a plate of flavorful grapes. You can dress the meal up with wine or dress it down with cider. The simplicity is part of the charm. It’s terrific for entertaining because the food doesn’t get in the way of conversation. You can assemble it in a hurry, and scale it up easily. And there’s hardly anything to clean up.

The potatoes should be medium-sized. I like raclette potatoes (apparently also called nicola potatoes), which have yellow flesh and a lovely taste. The hard part is picking the cheeses. You want a mix that is interesting. At one such meal we were served Brie de Meaux, Tendre Bûche Chavroux (goat cheese), Cambozola (a German cheese with a little bit of blue cheese mixed in), and one or two local Swiss hard cheeses. A few weeks ago, people we were visiting brought out a small round wooden box containing an orange-crusted cheese that was so creamy you had to scoop it out with a spoon. It’s called Vacherin Mont d’Or, and it was sublime. I don’t know if you can get it in the States.