There is nothing more elegant as a starter than watercress soup, hot or cold. When I have a dinner party I serve it in demitasse cups. About a half hour before we sit down to dinner I bring out a large silver tray with the cups and pass them around. Not only is it a pleasant surprise for the guests but also a simple way to serve the soup. I am always thinking of ways to eliminate dishes particularly when I do not have outside help.
Watercress is in your grocery stores right now. Don't pass it up if you see it, even if you are not entertaining. I made some last week and we have been enjoying it since them. Perfect for a quick lunch.
There are a few recipes out there but the one I have always made is Julia Child's. Here is the recipe:
POTAGE CREME DE CRESSON
(Cream of Watercress Soup)
from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child
1/3 cup minced green onions
3 Tbs. butter
3 to 4 cups packed cups of fresh water cress leaves and tender stems, washed and dried in a towel
1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbs. flour
5-1/2 cups boiling chicken stock
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 to 2 Tablespoons softened butter
Watercress leaves, for garnish, optional
Cook the onions slowly in butter in a covered saucepan for 5 to 10 minutes, until tender but not browned.
Stir in the water cress and salt, cover and cook slowly for about 5 minutes until tender and wilted.
Sprinkle in the flour and stir over moderate heat for 3 minutes.
Off heat, beat in the boiling stock. Simmer for 5 minutes, then puree through a food mill (I used a blender). Return the soup to the saucepan and correct seasoning. (If not to be served immediately, set aside uncovered. Reheat to simmer before prodeeding.)
Blend the yolks and cream in a mixing bowl. Beat a cupful of the soup into them by dribbles. Gradually beat in the rest of the soup. Return the soup to the saucepan and stir over moderate heat for a minute or two to poach the egg yolks, but do not bring the soup to the simmer.
Off heat, beat in the enrichment butter a tablespoon at a time. (I skipped this step).
Pour the soup into a tureen or soup cups and decorate with the optional watercress leaves.
TO SERVE COLD: Omit the final butter enrichment and chill. If too thick, stir in more cream