- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 17, 2007

So quick, so easy, so chic. That’s how I would describe the first course I am planning to serve for a special dinner in a few weeks. This opener — spring new potato and garlic soup — is made with a mere handful of ingredients, takes about 30 minutes from start to finish to prepare and definitely has a sophisticated taste and look. It’s the answer for discerning but harried cooks.

The garlic flavoring comes from Boursin, a creamy garlic- and herb- scented French cheese easily found in most supermarkets. It is broken into bits and melted in warm half-and-half to form the base of the soup.

Parboiled, thinly sliced new potatoes are stirred into the silken smooth cheese mixture, and fresh snipped chives and parsley are added as a garnish. Because no flour or other thickener is used, the texture is light, and amazingly, the heaviness one would expect from a potatoes-and-cheese combo is not present.

I am planning to ladle this delectable potage into individual soup bowls for my party. However, a novel and increasingly popular way to serve soups is to use espresso or demi-tasse cups and offer the petit servings as appetizers. This particular potage would lend itself beautifully to such a presentation. A single recipe yields 4 servings (about a cup each), but if you opt for miniature portions, you can double that to 8.

The soup would make a fine prelude to a roast leg of lamb, a baked ham or grilled salmon fillets. Or accompany it with an omelet or a frittata and a mixed-greens salad for a stylish springtime lunch or supper

Spring new potato and garlic soup

3/4 pound small new red-skinned potatoes (1 to 1½ inches in diameter), scrubbed but not peeled

Water

Kosher salt

2 cups half-and-half

5-ounce package Boursin cheese with garlic and herbs, broken into small pieces (see note)

Ground white pepper

4 teaspoons chopped flat-leaf parsley plus, if desired, a few extra sprigs for garnish

4 teaspoons chopped fresh chives plus, if desired, a few whole chives for garnish

Halve the potatoes and cut into slices that are 1/8-inch or less thick. Bring a large, heavy saucepan of water to a boil. Add potatoes and 2 teaspoons salt. Cook until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, about 5 to 6 minutes after water returns to a boil. Drain potatoes and set aside.

Add the half-and-half and Boursin to the same saucepan in which the potatoes were cooked. Place the pan over medium low heat and stir until cheese melts, about 3-4 minutes. Be careful not to let the mixture come to boil.

Add the cooked potatoes to the half-and-half mixture, and cook just until they are warmed, 1 or 2 minutes. Remove and season soup with salt and white pepper to taste.

Ladle soup into 4 soup bowls and garnish each serving with a generous sprinkling of parsley and chives. For extra visual pizazz, top each portion with a couple of parsley sprigs and a few long whole chives, if desired. Makes 4 servings.

Note: There are several brands of garlic- and herb-scented cheeses, but for this soup, Boursin with garlic and fine herbs is the best choice. It is available in the cheese department at supermarkets.

Betty Rosbottom is a cooking school director and author of “Big Book of Backyard Cooking” (Chronicle Books).

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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