The legend of the famous truffle soup was born in 1975 February 25, when French president Valéry Giscard D’Estaing promoted Paul Bocuse to Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur (the highest decoration in France). For that occasion, the father of French gastronomy was asked to prepare a special meal and one of the dishes he decided to serve for the president and the guests was la soupe aux truffes.
A sublimely rich and smooth soup made with a double consommé beef broth, with black winter truffles, foie gras and spring vegetables, all topped with a crisp puff pastry lid, the Soupe Elysée aux Truffes seems to bring together everything that is best about French cuisine in one divine dish that has become the stuff of legend.
Almost 50 years ago, the famed French chef Paul Bocuse created this dish for a lunch at the Èlysée Palace hosted by the President of France, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. The lunch was being held in order to present Bocuse with the Legion d’Honneur, the highest French order of merit, in recognition of his eminent contribution to civil life. The dish has become emblematic of Bocuse, and is still one of the most sought-after at his restaurant in Lyon, where it is known as La Soupe aux Truffes VGE, after the president in whose name it was created.
Bocuse said that the recipe was inspired by two recipes, a rich and creamy chicken and beef soup that he was served at a farmer’s house in Ardèche, and a truffle covered with puff pastry, like an “English chicken pie”, that his friend, the three-Michelin-starred chef, Paul Haeberlin, had served him in Alsace. Bocuse set out to create something that retained the depth of flavour, but was also “lighter, with more smoothness”. As for the tureen in which the soup is traditionally served, the idea came upon Bocuse as he was developing and testing his new recipe. It is now an integral part of the experience.
“And how does one eat it?” asked Giscard d’Estaing on being served this soup that day in 1975. “We break the crust!” replied Bocuse. And we agree, this is the very best way to start any meal.
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Written by Nicky Sullivan