The beginning of spring is such an exciting time for produce – I love seeing new vegetables crop up at the farmers’ markets. Root vegetables, tubers, and salad greens usually lead the charge before the abundance of summer fruit and vegetables arrive.
And there’s just something about those first vegetables of spring that are so exciting. The only thing I like more than seeing them in the markets is tasting what they can do in the kitchen.
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Enter the humble French potage aux légumes – a simple celebration of the best spring vegetables all blended together in a super velvety soup. It doesn’t overly taste of any one vegetable – they all blend together in harmony with a little extra cream for that super smooth texture we all crave in a soup like this.
What is Potage Aux Légumes?
Writing this post got me thinking about how we (English speakers) don’t have a word for what the French call potage. We have the word “soup” which pretty directly translates to la soupe in French. But le potage is something different.
A soupe aux légumes would be a brothy soup that has whole chunks of stewed vegetables in it (think of classic soupe au pistou). A potage aux légumes isn’t brothy, it’s a thick and velvety blend of all the stewed vegetables together, and it’s a completely different experience.
Both types of soup are French bistro classics. Almost every bistro menu will have a list of soups of the day, and they’re all reliably delicious. Order one if you find yourself in France and you’ll likely get a representation of whatever’s in season then.
Can you think of an English word for potage? I’d be so curious to know if I’m not thinking of it!
How to Make French Vegetable Soup
Making this French vegetable soup has to be one of the easiest dishes to pull off. All you have to do is saute then simmer vegetables until they are super, super tender. Then you blend them until they’re smooth. Add a little cream. Taste test for seasoning. Get fancy with some garnishes.
And that’s really it.
The resulting soup is earthy and comforting from the vegetables but with a super smooth and silky texture. It has substance to it, but it’s not overly heavy.
I’ve been pressing my husband lately to tell me specifically what it is he likes or doesn’t like about recipes I’m testing. This French vegetable soup won extra accolades from him because he said it was balanced and had extra depth of flavor. I wholeheartedly agree.
Which Vegetables to Choose?
The vegetables you choose for this potage aux légumes are important. You want vegetables that will come together harmoniously with no one vegetable overpowering the other.
I’m generally of the cooking philosophy that what grows together goes together. So for this French vegetable soup recipe, I used mostly early spring vegetables that are in season right now in Nashville. Think: carrots, parsnips, onions, etc.
There are two vegetables that are of particular importance for this potage.
The first is golden beets. Because potage aux légumes is all blended together, it can turn an unappetizing color pretty easily. The golden beets lend sweetness, but they also lend a pleasant yellow color.
I haven’t tried this recipe with regular red beets – I imagine the taste would be very similar but the color definitely strikingly red. I wanted something that didn’t scream “there are beets in here” so opted for the subtle golden ones instead.
The second important vegetable is russet potatoes. The potatoes, along with the parsnip, give a creamy and substantive backbone to the vegetable soup. Without it, you run the risk of it being a little too watery and not creamy and blended together.
Other vegetables that would provide similar body to the soup would be: sweet potatoes, spring peas (lots of them), chickpeas, or extra parsnips. I give you license to play around and find out what your favorites are!
Keys to Success
There are a few things to keep top of mind when making this French vegetable soup that will ensure success every time.
Keep vegetable cooking times in mind
A 1 inch beet cube takes longer to cook than a 1 inch celery cube. Saute your longer cooking vegetables first and add in the quicker cooking ones as you go. Since you’re blending everything together, it doesn’t need to be super exact, but follow that general progression.
Season the vegetables as you go
You want to build layers of flavor here. Salt your vegetables after every addition to fully season the soup as opposed to just adding salt at the end. Speaking of flavor layering: parmesan rinds are perfect in this recipe if you have them and deglazing the pot with some dry white wine gives acidity and depth.
Use good stock
I will continue to beat my dead horse here and tell you that the broth you’re using makes a difference. Buy some good broth/stock or use homemade stock. It’s easier than you think! Just make sure it’s the low sodium kind so you can more easily control the salt levels.
Cook the heck out of the vegetables
After you saute them, let the vegetables simmer in the broth until they are extremely fork tender. You don’t want any bite to them at all. Al dente vegetables make for soup that’s very difficult to blend!
Let an immersion blender do the heavy lifting
A good immersion blender is your absolute best friend for this recipe. Have you ever tried pouring hot vegetable soup from a heavy dutch oven into a blender? It doesn’t end well my friends. But an immersion blender allows you to keep the soup in the dutch oven and blend directly from there.
Garnish, garnish, garnish
Have FUN with the garnishes. I always have to have crispy bread croutons because there’s nothing better to soak up the velvety soup with. A dash of cream creates irresistible swirls of sweetness. And a quick blend of fresh herbs and good olive oil skyrocket the soup into spring overload.
Potage Aux Legumes – French Vegetable Soup
This blended French vegetable soup is creamy and velvety – it tastes like spring but is sweet and comforting at the same time. A must for any home chef to master!
For the Vegetable Soup
- 1 medium golden beet peeled and chopped into 1 inch cubes
- 1 large parsnip peeled and chopped into 1 inch cubes
- 1 large russet potato peeled and chopped into 1 inch cubes
- 4 medium sized carrots peeled and cut in 1 inch rounds
- 1 medium yellow onion quartered and thinly sliced
- 4 large ribs celery cut into 1 inch rounds
- 3 medium garlic cloves smashed
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp kosher salt divided
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 2 ½ cups chicken or vegetable stock
- Parmesan rind optional
- ¼ cup heavy cream plus extra for serving
- 2 tbsp butter
For the Garnishes
- 4 tbsp fresh herbs chives, carrot tops, and parsley
- 2 tbsp good quality olive oil
- 1 tsp coarse sea salt
- ½ tsp fresh cracked black pepper
- ½ loaf crusty bread
Heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a medium dutch oven, add beet, parsnip, potato, and ½ tbsp kosher salt to the pot. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally
Add the carrots, onion, and an additional ½ tbsp kosher salt to the pot. Cook an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the celery and garlic to the pot and cook an additional 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add wine to the pot, scraping the fond that’s developed at the bottom of the pan. Cook wine for 2-3 minutes.
Add the broth a little at a time, stirring to incorporate the fond from the bottom of the pot. Once all the broth is added, bring to a boil.
Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 20 – 25 minutes. Check to see if all the vegetables are fork tender and once they are, remove from heat.
Blend the vegetables until the soup has reached a thick, creamy, and smooth consistency**
Add ¼ cup heavy cream and 2 tbsp butter to the blended soup. Stir to incorporate
While the soup cooks, cut bread and prepare the herb pistou by combining the herbs, sea salt, olive oil, and black pepper
**A good immersion blender is by far the easiest way to blend this soup together. No need to transfer the hot liquid to the blender to mix.
If you notice the fond at the bottom of the dutch oven becoming too dark, add a little extra olive oil to loosen it and reduce heat to medium low.