Friday, October 1, 2010

Baked Potato Soup

Things are starting to change around here...

There's a sadness that comes with saying goodbye to summer. I'm sure I don't need to give a long list of reasons. However, saying goodbye to summer allows us to welcome autumn and all the wonderful things it brings. We live in an area where you can literally smell fall in the air. I wonder if it's the breath of trees we smell while they're yawning, preparing for a long winter's nap. I don't know.

In our neck of the woods, everything is changing. And this time of year is truly one of my favorites. It's time to pull out the jeans and sweaters. It's a time when I can make myself a cup of coffee in the afternoon, just so I have something warm to hold and linger over. And it's time again for roasts and hearty soups.

I found this recipe five years ago. Yes, I've tweaked it to make it my own and it's one of our favorites. I'm sure it will be one of yours too.

Baked Potato Soup

What you will need:

1 lb. thick-sliced bacon
2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
7 cups milk
6 - 8 medium-size baked Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 1/4 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Pause here...

You can use baked potatoes or you can use baked potatoes. It's up to you. I prefer baked potatoes. Here's the difference. For convenience, most people "bake" potatoes in a microwave. It's simple and quick, but the taste is pretty, um, bland. However, if you can plan just a little bit ahead and bake potatoes in an oven, you will taste a huge difference. So, here's a recipe inside a recipe:

Baked Potatoes

What you will need:

Yukon Gold* potatoes, similar in size
Olive Oil
Sea Salt, medium to coarse ground

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Wash and dry the potatoes. Either place them in a big stainless steel bowl or an over-sized Ziploc bag; drizzle with olive oil. Generously salt the potatoes (the amount will change depending upon how many potatoes you are baking. I would use about 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt with 6 to 8 potatoes). If using a bowl, use one hand to toss potatoes, evenly coating them with oil and salt. If using a bag, seal the bag and toss potatoes so they are evenly coated with oil and salt.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or use foil). Place the potatoes on the baking sheet so they are spaced evenly apart. Bake for one hour or until a knife inserted through the middle of a potatoes slides in easily. The skins will darken and turn a little crispy.

*Yukon Gold is our favorite potato. The flavor is unbeatable and the creamy texture is fabulous. If you like Russets or red-skinned, use them instead. Obviously, the smaller the potato, the shorter the cooking time.

Back to our soup recipe...

1. Cut bacon into one inch pieces; place in a large skillet and cook over medium heat until brown and slightly crisp. Drain, crumble and set aside. It's OK if you want to nibble on some of the cooked bacon. Really, it's OK. Reserve about 1 tablespoon of bacon drippings.

2. In a skillet, over medium heat, saute onion in 1 tablespoon of bacon drippings until clear and just starting to caramelize. Set aside.

3. In a stock pot or Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat and whisk in flour until smooth. Gradually stir in milk, whisking constantly until thickened. I usually add 2 tablespoons of chicken base here, but you don't have to unless you have it on hand. It just helps enhance the overall flavor. Stir in potatoes and onions. Bring to a low boil, stirring frequently.

4. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Mix in bacon, cheese, sour cream, salt and pepper. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until cheese is melted.

Serve with additional Cheddar cheese and chopped green onions, if desired.


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