Ever since I worked at Bennigans I have adored potato soup. I am fairly certain if it weren’t for snitched rolls and ramekins of baked potato soup I would have wasted away in my late teens. I was sad to see the company recently declare bankruptcy, but take heart the potato soup lives on. This recipe rates just a shade above novice on the difficulty scale. Which, according to my rating system, if you can handle two basic tasks simultaneously and not wander away and get sucked into another activity, you’ve got it in the bag.
Before we get started let’s talk liquids. Most potato soup recipes call for milk and sour cream, some call for milk and half and half, other call for milk, sour cream, and chicken broth. Substituting chicken broth (or stock) for some, but not all, never all, of the milk lowers the fat content while providing good flavor. I prefer a small dollop of sour cream as a topping rather than stirring a cup full (in place of the half and half in the version below) at the end of cooking, but feel free to experiment.
This is a great use for all those odd size potatoes that seem to show up in the large bags. I scrub just enough to fill up a small baking tray, prick each with a fork, and bake for one hour at 400F. When they are done I place on a baking rack to cool and begin making the soup. While the milk is heating I peel and mash the potatoes by hand. The peels should slip off quite easily.
Lastly, for those just venturing into the world of cream soups, follow the directions closely the first time, then feel free to experiment. I tend to have a light touch with salt, preferring to allow others to salt to taste at the table.
If you use store bought broth or stock, be very careful with the amount of salt you add, it’s very easy to over-salt in these cases.
- 2 TBSP butter
- 1 onion finely diced
- 2 celery ribs + leaves chopped (don’t stress if your ribs are naked or omit completely if you hate celery)
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1/4 cup flour
- 5 cups milk, heated (feel free to substitute up to half chicken broth / stock)
- approximately 5lbs baked potatoes peeled and mashed (Yukon Gold potatoes work well)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground pepper
- 4 oz cheddar (or ) grated or cut into small cubes (grate additional cheese for garnish)
- 4 – 6 slices bacon cooked and roughly chopped (save a little for garnish)
- 1 cup half and half (or sour cream)
Heat the butter in a heavy pot over medium heat.
In another pot or the microwave begin heating the milk, not to a simmer or boil, just at least above room temperature.
When it has melted add the onions, stir frequently and reduce the heat to medium low.
When the onions are soft add the celery and garlic and sauté for an additional two to three minutes.
Sprinkle the flour and stir well, until the roux is smooth. (Yes, you’ll have celery and onion lumps, watch for small clumps of flour.
Now comes the slightly tricky part. While stirring constantly, begin slowly adding the milk. At first, you’ll create a thick paste. If you are patient there should be no lumps. Once all of the initial lumps are gone you can begin adding the milk or chicken broth in more generous amounts, just be sure it is completely incorporated between additions. Once all the milk has been added, bring to a simmer stirring occasionally. As soon as the mixture begins to simmer, reduce the heat to low.
This is when I peel and mash the potatoes, as it can be a little boring.
Stir in the mashed potatoes. Add more broth or milk if the soup gets too thick.
Slowly stir in the cheese, crumbled bacon, salt, and pepper. Allow to heat through, then stir in the half and half or sour cream, stir, and serve immediately.