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One French word: laitue, a French recipe: crème de laitue

Laitue, feminine noun (la laitue, une laitue, des laitues) = lettuce (pronounced lé-tu, no particular stress, no s heard in the plural).

Lettuce, the humble basic salad, but so delicious, especially when home grown and startlingly green, with slighly chewy leaves!

I can’t find a good expression using laitue to share with you, but panier à salade (literally salad basket or salad shaker) is a French phrase for the vehicles the French police use to arrest and cart people around in. Originally horse drawn, as they drove across the cobbled streets of Paris, they shook the inmates up thoroughly, hence the name. I believe in the US they were called Paddywagons, and in the UK Black Marias.

Panier à salade

Panier à salade (photo from Google)

Paddywagon, Duluth, 1909 (wikipedia photo)

My recipe for today is crème de laitue, cream of lettuce soup. This is an excellent way of using the outside leaves of a lettuce, and indeed, can be made even if you do not have much in the fridge! It is also a light and tempting soup when you don’t really feel like eating a lot.

Crème de laitue

Potage crème de laitue

For 4 servings (cupfuls) you will need (don’t forget to look at my conversion table page):

  • The outside leaves equivalent to half a large lettuce
  • 200gr potato
  • 30gr butter
  • 500ml water
  • 3/4 tsp coarse salt (gros sel)
  • Pepper
  • 100ml cream


  1. Remove, wash and chop roughly the required amount of lettuce leaves.
  2. Peel and cube the potato.
  3. Place the lettuce and the potato in a saucepan with the water, the butter and the salt. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Add the cream and two or three twists of the pepper mill. Simmer for 5 more minutes.
  5. Mix smooth with a soup blender, but for a short time only. If potato is too mixed, it goes goopy.

I’m almost ashamed to give you something so simple to do! But then, good things don’t have to be complicated, do they?

The brilliant green colour and delicate aroma of this soup are really appetizing. So…

Bon appétit.


About OneFrenchWord

I was a professional linguist and have been a life-long foodie. I am now lucky enough to be retired and free to roam the beaches around my home at the tip of the Finistère (Brittany, France). Writing is occupying a larger place in my life, with this blog and a children's book in preparation. I shall feel much happier calling myself a writer when I have published a book. And so posts on OneFrenchWord will be published first as an e-book, my ambition being to see a glossy volume on French language and cuisine in print some day. So keep reading, and snap up the book when it appears!

11 responses »

  1. Oh, my, I really liked to find the French equivalent of “paddy wagon” and “black maria”. Both terms are used in the U.S. I wonder if “paddy wagon” referred to the Irish policemen of Boston and New York, or the drunk Irishmen they would pick up? I am half Irish so I can say this!!!

  2. I have to say I was wondering whether it was politically correct to mention the term at all!

  3. originalapplejunkie


  4. originalapplejunkie

    I miss them..

  5. We have used “Black Maria” in Swedish too, but translated into “Svarta Maja”!
    Never have I used lettuce in a soup, mostly I take leeks with the potatoes, but I will sure try this!

    • I think this recipe would work well with escarole, or chicory as it can be called.

      • Escarole in America, is it the very curly salad? It might be a bit bitter. It would work with what we call “romaine” (very long very green leaves), or “batavia” (like a lettuce but just slightly curly at the edges).

        • Yes, through wikipedia, I found there are dozens of names for escarole, a member of the endive family: “batavia” came up as one. I get escarole frequently from my CSA box and am always wondering what to do with it. The tender inner leaves made a delicious salad with gorgonzola cheese.

    • I found it in Norwegian too, Inga-Lill, svarte marje! This lettuce soup is lovely, but I’m going to do poireau pomme de terre soup next week maybe.

  6. Sounds lovely. Could I get away with the dreaded iceberg? During the summer we have an almost inexhaustible supply via our neighbour.

  7. No, really not! No flavour, no colour! You must be able to get your neighbour to plant lettuces instead? Give him/her this recipe, it might tempt him/her!


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