French

A Sumptuous Truffle Soup to Remember a Culinary Legend

February  9, 2018

Peeling back a blanket of pastry dough, you’re first hit with a gasp of steam. It smells delicate but surprisingly complex, an airy allusion to the decadence it concealed. Below the puff pastry is an amber, oil-dappled broth. At its surface float studs of carrot and mushroom, shards of onion. Its taste is shockingly rich, unexpectedly complicated. Upon closer inspection: Is that… a truffle shaving, a hint of foie gras? This is a soup worthy of presidents. A soup so laden with luxury, the original version cost a whopping $400. This is Paul Bocuse’s V.G.E., a foie-gras-dappled, truffle-flaked masterpiece.

Paul Bocuse, the renowned French chef, died a few weeks ago at the age of 91. He is credited with having ushered in a new age of French cuisine, one that eschewed heavy sauces for lighter flavors and attention to ingredients. He also, thanks to a vibrant and domineering personality, carved out a wider space for chefs in the public eye, paving the way for today’s celebrity-chef culture. Aside from an indelible legacy, Bocuse left behind many iconic dishes, and a legendary truffle soup is among them.

In honor of his career, Josh Cohen, our test kitchen chef, sought to recreate this famous soup, one Bocuse is said to have first served to French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (for whom the dish is named) at the Élysée Palace in 1975. Each bowl contained enough truffle shavings to bankrupt a small business. Bocuse would later publish a version of the recipe in his 1977 cookbook French Cooking that called for $200 worth of truffles per person. Aside from the musky intensity of the truffle, the soup is lush with mellow, grounding chunks of foie gras, which give the broth a robust flavor.

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"I read ten or twelve versions of the recipe to distill down the essence of what I think is important,” Cohen said. He wanted to revive and recreate the recipe not only to pay homage to a great chef, but also to share his legacy with the site. He combed the internet for English-language versions. “Certain things were constant throughout them all, and then I decided what to put a spin on. For instance, some recipes tell you to soften your vegetables but not put any color on them, but I say let your vegetables caramelize a bit—it’s okay.”

With Valentine’s Day around the corner and all sorts of decadent celebrations in store, what better time than now to try out such a sumptuous soup? Show appreciation with the hearty flavors of a soft, simmered, pastry-topped delicacy.

Have you had the luxury of dining with Paul Bocuse? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

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