November 06, 2013

Hearty Potato Soup

The influx of cold fall weather has me wanting all the best comfort foods.  Especially all things cheese and potato apparently, because I just posted scalloped potatoes earlier this week.

This past Sunday was spent recovering from a fantastic rugby Halloween party, napping, and watching football (go Bills!), so it was the perfect day to mozy and work on soup, since it takes a little bit of time.       Now I will admit that I have never in my life made soup.  I don't even remember my mom ever making soup.  But with Joe's voice of confidence and my conviction that nothing with potatoes, cream, and bacon could go wrong I set out on my very first soup-making adventure.  It was both as easy and delicious as I had dreamed it would be, so I hope you'll give it a try.




This recipe was largely based on the Absolutely Ultimate Potato Soup from Allrecipes.  They even have a video if you want to see this baby in action. It takes maybe 1.5- 2 hours to make, depending largely on your chopping speed and how soft you want your potatoes to be.  This also allows some lovely time for Charm Hour (aka the time spent drinking, socializing, and snacking before dinner).

FYI: this makes enough soup for 8.  You can think about cutting that down, but you really should make the full thing and save it in tupperware.   The full recipe is at the bottom.


You'll Need:

1/2 lb bacon, chopped
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 leek, chopped 
3 cloves of garlic, minced
8 potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 cups chicken stock 
3 TB butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp dried tarragon
salt and pepper to taste



To start, chop up 1/3 to 1/2 of a pack on bacon and cook in a dutch oven/ large pot over medium heat.
You can always use more bacon, just pour off some of the bacon fat so you have about 1/4 cup left in your pot.




The pieces don't have to be too small, they'll shrink with cooking.  We also found it easier to cut multiple pieces at a time.

While that's cooking, get your chopping going.  Start with celery and leeks, as you'll need those first.  You can use onion rather than leeks, but I'm not much of an onion person.




Because leeks are these many-layered stalk-like veggies, they can trap dirt in between their layers.  The easiest way the clean them is to chop them all up, then drop them in a bowl of water.  The leeks will float, and your dirt will sink.  When it's time to use them, just scoop they off the top of the water.



Type of potato, peeling and chopping size are really up to you and what you like best.  I haphazardly peeled my gold potatoes, but you can go crazy and use not-peeled red potatoes, or whatever your heart desires.



Once your bacon is cooked, scoop it out and set aside on paper towel to keep it crispy.




Make sure to save about 1/4 cup of bacon grease in the bottom of your pot.  If you make more bacon, just pour off some of your fat.  I recommend saving it- it's great for sauteing green beans or frying an egg.




Throw in your leeks and celery and stir that around for a few minutes.  If you use onions, you'll keep those going until the onions become translucent.




Finish up chopping those potatoes and toss them in the pot with your celery and leeks.





Toss your potatoes around in the grease and vegetables for 4 minutes.




Add enough chicken stock (not broth- make sure it's stock) to cover your potatoes.  Cover and simmer until your potatoes are tender.



This next part only takes a few minutes, so wait until they're starting to get soft before starting it.

Melt 3 TB of butter into a metal skillet on medium heat.  Add 1/4 cup of flour, and stir until well mixed.  Whisk in heavy cream, tarragon, salt, pepper, and other seasonings to taste.  Keep whisking until thickened.

According to the original recipe and the comments of other cookers, the tarragon is extremely important to the flavor, and shouldn't be left out.  I also added garlic salt, and Creamy Peppercorn by Penzey's.  









Add this to your potato pot and stir until well mixed.  My potatoes were still not soft enough for my taste, so I simmered a little longer.  



Once your taters are ready, use a hand masher to bring it to your ideal consistency.  I wanted my soup real think with not too many chunks, so I did a good bit of mashing, but you can do it as sparingly as you please!





As you can tell, my soup's really thick.   You can always add milk or chicken stock to thin it out without altering the flavor.

And now for those final product pictures:





Obviously, everything potato is better with cheese.  I used extra sharp cheddar.






And of course, the bacon.  Alternatively, you can add it earlier in the cooking process (i.e. when you add the cream mixture) to get more bacon flavor mixed in.  I chose to keep it for the end so it would be nice and crispy.  So many choices!


And because we ought to have more than just soup for dinner, Joe made up some roasted bone-in chicken breasts with an herb dry rub.  He's so wonderful.



The Recipe:

You'll Need:

1/2 lb bacon, chopped
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 leek, chopped 
3 cloves of garlic, minced
8 potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 cups chicken stock 
3 TB butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp dried tarragon
salt and pepper to taste

In large pot, cook bacon over medium heat until done. Remove bacon from pan and set on paper towels, but keep bacon grease in the pot.

Saute celery and leeks in bacon grease for 4 minutes.  Add potatoes and stir to coat.  Saute for 4 minutes.  Add chicken stock to just cover the potatoes.  Cover and simmer until potatoes are tender.

In a separate pan, melt butter on medium heat.  Mix in flour to form roux.  Whisk in heavy cream, tarragon, salt, and pepper.  Cook and stir until thickened.  Pour into potato pot and stir until well mixed.   Once potatoes are tender, mash with a hand masher until preferred amount of chunkiness.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  Serve and garnish with shredded cheese and bacon.
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