14 January 2013

Eats: Baked potato soup

Forgive me for the cliché, but baby... it is cold outside.

Today’s high temperature in my fair city is below freezing. Now now, New Englanders, Minnesotans, Chicagolanders, Wisconsites, and any potential readers from the Great White North: I know. You don’t need to tell me; I realize it could be SO much worse. It’s just that living in a place where high temperature below freezing is normal is new – and slightly terrifying – to this Southern-raised girl.

When it’s bitterly cold like this, it seems that a common temptation is to make a big pot of hot soup. At least, it’s common in most households. But unfortunately, half of my household has a psychosomatic aversion to soup. All soups with the single exception of Chinese restaurant egg drop soup. Apparently Mr. P has long associated soup with being sick, so eating soup when he’s healthy makes him feel sick. I... think that’s weird (especially the egg drop soup exception, wha?), but it’s not worth pushing it by forcing soup upon him and making him feel ill. I usually just adapt soup recipes into stew recipes by reducing the liquid and bulking it up with rice or somesuch.

Until recently. Out of the blue, Mr. P announced that his aversion was starting to lessen. AND I JUMPED FOR JOY BECAUSE SOUP! I can make soup! I didn’t realize how much these long soup-less years have affected me!

So I got right on that soup-making with a recipe I’ve wanted to make for years: baked potato soup. Yes, I could have made it a long time ago just for myself while Mr. P enjoyed a PBJ – he suggested as much. But it always seemed like too much work just for one person, so I never made it.

Let me tell you know: I was wrong. I was so wrong. This soup is easy-peasy, and with pre-baked potatoes, it can easily be a fast weeknight dinner. Not to mention perfect for a cold evening!

There are tons of baked potato soup recipes out there, but I went with this one from the kitchn. While I did cut a few corners in my version, calorie-wise, I liked that this one was simultaneously smart and unapologetic about the ridiculously high fat content. (Also because I love Apartment Therapy, in a smart yet unapologetic way.)

This baked potato soup starts with, uh, baked potatoes. What would you do without me to guide you? The source suggests using leftover baked potatoes, but I didn’t have any (although now that I have a use for them, maybe in the future...). Instead I specifically picked up five giant Yukon Golds. Seriously, they were the most massive Yukon Golds I’ve ever seen.

I picked that variety over regular baking potatoes because of their thinner skin – I could leave them unpeeled without any qualms of grody thick peel in my soup. However, I did brush the thin skin with just a bit of olive oil before baking, in the hopes that it would sturdy it up just a bit. But JUST A BIT! And then I wiped off the excess. Too much oil and you’ll inadvertently fry the side of the potato. You just want them to have a slight sheen.

Then I popped them in a 425-degree oven for... however long it was before it was time to go to church? I think an hour. I flipped them halfway in, too.

Then sliced and cubed ‘em up into bite-sized chunks.

Yes, it’s a LOT of potato chunks.

Okay, now it’s time to make the soup! Start with two sticks of butter – NO SHAME – and melt them over medium-high heat. Oh, and I used my Le Creuset because I feel fancier that way, but you can use any old pot.

Once the butter is melted, add 3/4 cup of flour (reduced from one cup in the original recipe)...

... And stir it around to make a roux.

Keep stirring for a few minutes to cook the flour. If you’re fortunate enough to have your spice cabinet adjacent to your stove (heck yes I set my kitchen up that way on purpose), you can season while you stir! I added salt, black pepper, a few dashes of red pepper, and a lot of garlic powder, parsley, and chives.

Don’t be shy with the seasoning! Remember, this soup isn’t really made of flavorful ingredients. It’s practically all starch and dairy – not that there’s anything wrong with that – so a lot of the flavor will depend on the seasoning. And if you can’t season while stirring, no bigs – just season when you have a chance!

After a few more minutes of cooking the roux, turn the heat to medium-low and add two cups of chicken broth, one cup at a time. (Again, I’m deviating from the original recipe – the idea of adding an entire half-gallon of whole milk made my stomach hurt, so I replaced some of it with chicken broth instead.) After the first cup, it’ll still be a bit paste-y, but after the second cup, it should start to smooth out.

Oh and PS! If you want to make a vegetarian version of this, you can totally use vegetable broth – or just make everything with milk, if you can spare the calories.

After the broth, turn the heat down even lower and add about twelve ounces of sour cream (I used low-fat), or whatever amount you can add while ensuring that you’ll still have enough left of the 16-ounce carton for tacos on Wednesday:

Then add... oh geez, this is why I should write stuff down. I think I then added one more cup of chicken broth, and then four cups of whole milk, one cup at a time, for seven total cups of liquid (three broth + four milk). Something like that. But hey, just whisk in liquid until it looks right to you. I promise you, you can’t go wrong.

Here’s why you can’t go wrong: CHEESE. Two cups of shredded cheddar, please!

The original recipe used three cups, but two was plenty rich for me.

Another reason you can’t go wrong: POTATOES. All of ‘em.

Then just cover and simmer until it’s heated through, stirring occasionally! You’re basically done! I know it seems like a lot of steps because I went through every iteration of adding liquid to the roux, but really, it comes together super quickly.

But wait, there’s more for the meat-eaters: Microwave and chop up a few slices of BACON for the pièce de résistance!

(You can, of course, stir pre-cooked-and-chopped bacon into the soup pot, but Mr. P thought it would turn soggy in the soup. I’m not one to argue with a freshly-converted soup-eater, so I did as he suggested.)

First parting thought: This was a super tasty, super thick soup – almost too thick, even though I added seven cups of liquid and reduced the amount of flour by 25%. So next time, I’d add two more cups of broth, and maybe even reduce the flour further so it’s more “soup” than “chunky potato gravy”.

Second: I really should have halved the recipe. I knew I should, and then I didn’t. As-is, we have at least eight generous serving, so hopefully it freezes well. If you have a small family, cut the recipe in half!

And third: have I emphasized enough that this comes together REALLY QUICKLY? So you don’t need to start this early and let it simmer, like most soups. As a matter of fact, once you bake the potatoes, you shouldn’t even start making the soup more than thirty minutes before dinnertime. Promise. I speak from experience.

But aside from that, dear readers: ENJOY!


Tina said...

Oh, me... no burnt flavor made it into the soup I hope...
Perhaps at some point, try the swamp soup from budgetbytes. I love the fun name and it is soooo good! It makes a lot, too, so I can freeze it in gallon ziplock bags flat and it stacks up neatly - along with my chili and spaghetti sauce leftovers. We had a roast Saturday and I'm adding some of it to a bag of soup for supper tonight. I'm getting hungry now just thinking about it! And it is even faster and just as easy, too, as the potato soup.