Saturday, March 10, 2007

Baked Potato Soup

Imagine a baked potato with all your favorite toppings but in soup form. March brings so much temperamental weather to Seattle, sunny one minute then overcast and raining the next. This soup is perfect for a cold and wet afternoon that happens all too often these days.

I think the best part of the soup is the fried potato skins; they're reminiscent of the crisp skin of a baked potato. I use milk in this recipe because it's something that's always in my fridge, but half and half can be substituted for a creamier soup. Alternatively, you can increase the amount of stock and use a cup of cream instead of milk for an even richer soup.

Baked Potato Soup (inspired by Cook's Country)
5 Russet potatoes, scrubbed (I'm a terrible estimator of weight, I'd say around 2 lbs?)
1 medium onion, chopped
6 oz bacon, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 C chicken stock
2 1/2 C milk (at least 2% milk fat)
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of thyme or 1/4 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper

Cheese: shredded cheddar, Gruyere, etc.
Sour cream
Chives or green onions

In a Dutch oven or stockpot, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp and fat has rendered. While the bacon is cooking, peel the potatoes in wide strips and save the peels without skin damage or buds. Chop potatoes into 1/2 in cubes. Remove the bacon to a paper towel lined plate.

Add the potato skins to the fat in the pot and cook for about 4 minutes. At this point you can continue crisping in the bacon fat another 4 minutes or bake the skins in the oven. I find it more convenient to finish crisping in a toaster oven and continue cooking the rest of the soup. I spread them in a layer on a piece of foil and bake for another few minutes at 300ºF, checking every few minutes so they don't burn. Bake until skins are golden brown, then transfer to the paper towel lined plate with the bacon.

After cooking the potato skins, drain the excess fat. Add the onions and cook for 6 minutes over medium heat until golden brown and soft.

Add minced garlic and flour and cook for another minute.

Add chicken stock, potatoes, bay leaf, thyme, salt and pepper. I usually also add half the bacon then reserve the rest for garnish later but you can reserve the bacon entirely for garnish later.

Bring to a boil, cover and reduce the heat to a gentle boil. Cook for about 7 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Then add milk, bring to a bare simmer, and remove from heat.

Remove the bay leaf and puree about half the soup. You can blend in a batches with a blender, or use an immersion blender (I usually just use a whisk and mash the potatoes by hand). This will give the soup a smoother consistency and also make it thicker. If you prefer a smoother consistency just puree the entire thing but I like my soup a bit chunky.

Serve the soup with crispy potato skins, bacon, and whatever toppings you desire.

Serves 4 to 6.

Elise makes a wonderful Ham, Potato and Leek Soup
Peabody concocts a Potato Cheese Soup

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