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Potage is a French culinary term that refers to a type of thick soup. In French, the term translates to “potted dish” and generally consists of meats, vegetables, and other ingredients cooked in liquid until they form a thick mixture. This type of dish is thought to have its roots as French peasant food in medieval times, but modern variations of the traditional dish are still often made by both home cooks and gourmet chefs.
The process of preparing traditional French potage may vary slightly depending on the ingredients, but generally it begins by combining chopped meat, vegetables, or other desired ingredients, with enough water to completely submerge them in a large pot. Historically the pot was placed over a fire, but in more modern times, a stove is usually used; however, a slow cooker may also be used to prepare the dish. The soup ingredients are cooked over high heat until the water starts to boil, and then cooked gently over a lower heat until the ingredients are cooked through. Once the ingredients have reached the desired texture and doneness, most recipes call for either mashing them by hand or using a blender to puree the ingredients together to form a creamy mixture.
One of the most common versions of the dish is known as potage parmentier. This traditional version generally consists of leeks, potatoes, salt, cream, and butter cooked together in water and then may be pureed to the desired texture. Another well-known variation is referred to as potage crecy and its main ingredients include carrots, leeks, potatoes, cream, and water.
A variety of accompaniments may be served with potage. Some cooks prefer to serve the dish with a piece of baguette to sop up the juices of the soup and to make it more filling if it is being served as a main course. French soups are also often served with garnishments of finely chopped fresh herbs, such as thyme, tarragon, or parsley, for presentation and to add extra flavor. Pistou, a French condiment similar to Italian pesto that is made from pureed basil, nuts, olive oil, and garlic, is also often served with the thick soup by being drizzled atop the dish prior to serving.
Potage is also often considered as a category of soup in French cuisine, in addition to being a specific dish. French soups are often broken down into categories based on their texture. A French soup that is thin and liquid based is referred to as consommé. In the middle are potage soups that contain liquid and meats, vegetables, or other solid ingredients that are pureed into a creamy texture, while soups that leave the other ingredients as is in chunks are known as soupe.