Friday, September 30, 2011

Recipe: Potato Soup

Words that describe today: Cold. Rainy. Grey. Dreary. Autumn. Cold (did I already say that?). I spent my morning in a warm kitchen for my Foods 1 class, learning how to make Espagnole (one of the five mother sauces; a brown sauce), variations on that sauce, and tomato sauce. When I got home, I changed into pajamas, curled up in bed under a mound of blankets with the space heater on, and basically went into a brief hibernation mode, napping for two hours. When 5:00PM rolled around, all I wanted was a warm, hearty dinner, which is lucky for me, because I picked up the ingredients for my cousin's fabulous potato soup late last week and it's the perfect meal for a chilly day in the North. This is yet another meal I tried at my cousin's place over the Labor Day weekend, and it's an original "Katie" recipe—a recipe that I'm glad she shared with me. The soup has small chunks of soft, warm potato in a thick, creamy base. Topped with crispy bacon, fresh green onions, and grated cheddar cheese, it's the perfect meal for a cold and damp autumn evening.

Serves: 4-6
Prep. time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking time: 30-40 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

  • 4-6 strips bacon, cut into 1 inch cubes/strips
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium leeks, diced (be sure to clean these thoroughly by letting them soak in water and by cutting off the tops—they are incredibly sandy and dirty and you don't want that grime getting into your soup)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • Approx. 3 lbs. potatoes (about 4 medium potatoes or 8 small potatoes), diced (smaller pieces will cook faster)
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 & 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper (and white pepper), to taste
  • Corn starch, if necessary (a small—no more than 1/4 cup, and likely less than that—mixture of cornstarch and water can be added to the soup to help thicken it if it's too thin)
  • Shredded cheddar cheese, bacon, and diced green onions, for garnish and taste (I set out about a 1/2 cup of each)

In a large pot over medium high heat, cook the bacon until crispy, but not overly brown or burnt. Remove from pot, set it aside on paper towels to soak up some of the grease, then use that as your bacon garnish at the end (if I remember correctly, my cousin cooked two small batches of bacon and actually included some of that bacon in the soup, but I chose not to do that). Drain all but 2 tbsp. of the bacon grease into a small bowl and set aside (you may want to add a little more to the soup later—that's what I did, to add a little more flavor). Add the butter to the pot, then add the garlic and leeks, cooking them until they are slightly soft. Add the flour and stir around, making a sort of roux (this helps thicken the soup a bit). Cook until the butter and grease mixture is incorporated into the flour and there is no longer any flour smell. Turn the heat up to high, add the chicken stock to the pot and deglaze it (use a spoon or spatula to scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pot). Add the water and heavy cream and stir to combine. Add the potato chunks and cook until they are cooked through (15-20 minutes). If the soup seems too thin, add a little of the cornstarch-and-water mixture and continue to cook, adding more as needed, until the soup is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If your soup is too thick, add a little water to thin it out. Add salt and pepper (and white pepper), to taste. Serve topped with bacon crumbles, shredded cheddar cheese, and diced green onions.

This soup is creamy, hearty, and rich without being overwhelmingly rich. The cheddar cheese, green onions, and bacon add a punch of flavor to the dish, as well as some crunch and texture. It's the perfect dish for a cool autumn evening or a cold winter day and it reheats wonderfully.

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