Monday, November 3, 2014

Potato Soup ... Bowl of Comfort with Ease

The days get shorter, the breezes get colder, and there is nothing more warm and comforting than a bowl of potato soup at the end of a long day. When you feel like your day has been shorted an hour, it is hard to get excited about taking the time to cook dinner. This recipe is simple, and if you have the right leftovers, can be made quickly. This classic is even better if you make a big pot and enjoy the leftovers through the week, as the flavors meld and deepen.
Before I get into the basic recipe, here are a few things to keep in mind:

If you have leftover baked potatoes, they are awesome to use in this recipe. The skins generally peel right off, or you can leave them on, whatever your preference.

You can peel and boil the potatoes, but baked ones aren't as likely to dissolve in the soup. I like potato soup to be chunky; however, there are some who prefer to puree it for a velvety texture.

If you have picky eaters, make the basic potato soup, and serve it with toppings -- cheddar cheese, bacon, sour cream, chives, cubed ham, scallions, fresh black pepper, etc.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and this recipe is a great way to use leftover ham!

Get creative ... some great variations to this soup include cheddar cheese, onion, garlic, and corn.



Approximately 3 Cups Baked Potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 Tablespoons of Butter
3 Tablespoons of Flour
2 Cups of Chicken Stock (OR 1 Large Chicken Bouillon Cube dissolved in 2 cups of water)
2 Cups of Milk (I used 2%)
1 Can of Corn (Optional)
Shredded Cheddar (Use as a topping or melt into the soup)
Ham or Bacon (Use as a topping or add to the soup for a richer flavor and more protein)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Baking the potatoes - If you don't have leftover baked potatoes, you can bake them in the microwave quickly. Bake them in the oven for a richer flavor. I had a bag of Yukon Gold potatoes and made mashed potatoes from half of them and used the remainder in this soup. If you haven't used Yukon Gold Potatoes, you have to try them! They have a buttery flavor and gorgeous texture, not to mention thin skins, which is nice if you decide to leave them on for any recipe.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  
Line the bottom of a baking sheet with tinfoil or parchment paper. 
Rub the outside of the potatoes with olive oil and place on the baking sheet. 

Bake for 15 minutes, and then turn them over and bake for 15 minutes more.  At this point, check them and continue baking until they soften and "yield to the touch."

Let the potatoes cool, and at this point, you can even refrigerate them for several days.  

Making the soup - In a large pot, melt the 3 Tablespoons of butter over medium heat.
When the butter is bubbly, add the 3 Tablespoons of flour to make a "roux." Keep stirring after adding the flour until the butter and flour are combined.
Reduce heat to low.

Add the 2 cups of chicken stock or chicken bouillon dissolved in 2 cups of water, continuing to stir.
Add the 2 cups of milk, continuing to stir.
(Stirring is important here - you want the ingredients to combine and dissolve anything clinging to the bottom of the pot)
After about a minute stirring it over low heat, increase the heat a bit until you see the mixture thicken a bit.
(Now is the time to celebrate - you just mastered the basic white sauce which can be transformed into about a zillion things, including Alfredo sauce!)

Remove the skins from the potatoes and cut them into bite sized pieces. Generally, I quarter them and then peel them like a banana, cutting each quarter into small chunks.  
Add the potatoes to the soup.

Here is where you have to decide what you'd like to add, and what to use as a topping. I added some leftover ham - cubed - and served it with shredded sharp cheddar and a sprinkle of chives. (See notes above)
Add a can of corn (drained) if desired for a light crunch. 
Reduce the heat to low, and let simmer for 10-15 minutes. This allows the potatoes to soften, and the ham (if added) to season the soup.  

Words of wisdom - If the soup is a bit thick, or you like a thinner consistency, add a bit of milk and/or chicken stock to thin it.  
I would have to use all caps and 5 exclamation points to tell you how much I think that baking anything on parchment makes a big difference ... you should try it - at least once!
This soup is great left over, and the flavors only get better!
We often make this when we are having friends over for chili - you can use many of the same toppings and it makes for a nice alternative for those who don't like spicy food. 

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