Good soup is one of the prime ingredients of good living.
For soup can do more to lift the spirits
and stimulate the appetite than any other one dish.
Louis P. De Gouy, ‘The Soup Book’
I judge a pub’s fare by their potato soup and their broccoli bites. Sue me.
For years and years and years the clear winner in my mind was Bennigan’s, and I was pretty much heartbroken when the one near me closed (not sure if Bennigan’s is still serving up tasty soups and sides in other areas).
I haven’t mastered the broccoli bite yet, or found an alternative that even comes close to the delicious ones Bennigan’s had. But I’ve come pretty close to perfecting potato soup.
What makes a good potato soup? A thick, full body; lots of hunger-satisfying chunks; a bit of zing and bacon on top Oh, and it MUST improve for leftovers next day.
Like always, I play it fast and loose with quantities here; it depends on what I have in the fridge and the pantry. The ingredients listed are what I like to use and I think make for great flavor, but there’s a lot of wiggle room in soups. Which is just one more reason why they’re the best, best comfort food during these busy months hurtling us towards the end of the year.
Simple Potato Soup
(with Cheese and Bacon)
- “once around the pan” or about a tablespoon olive oil (organic is nice)
- 3 large green onions (leeks if you’re fancy), a small sweet onion, or 2 biggish shallots
- salt & pepper to taste; freshly ground is always better
- 3 large baking potatoes, or 4 large Yukon gold potatoes, or about 8 “new” potatoes— I basically just eyeball and think “how many of these = 3 Russets?” Farmer’s market fresh for best flavor & texture!
- 4 cups free-range chicken broth (I like Pacific, it’s organic too; Trader Joe’s has a good one)
- 2 cups milk (I go organic and full-fat)
- Pinch of nutmeg
- 1/2 cup of whatever cheese I’ve got; usually an organic sharp cheddar of some kind. Bonus for something with garlic or peppers in it for some bite
- blue cheese and crumbled bacon for topping (optional)
Now do this (seems like a lot of steps but I swear it’s easy):
- peel and dice your potatoes; chop your green onions into circles or dice your onion/shallots; grate your cheese. Or do like I do and delegate this part to your teenager in exchange for driving him somewhere this weekend.
- “once around the pan” your olive oil in a large skillet/saucepan on medium-high heat
- cook your onion gently until soft; salt and pepper as you wish
- pour in broth and add potatoes; bring to boil
- turn down heat to low and simmer 10 minutes
- pour in milk and add nutmeg
- cook another 5 minutes or until hot
- depending on how thick vs chunky you like your soup, carefully transfer half (more or less) to a blender and purée until you get a whirling vortex. Alternatively, remove some chunks to a different bowl and use an immersion blender, I don’t mind.
- Return purée (or chunks) to pan and remove from heat. Stir in grated cheese.
- Top with delicious happy (organic, free-range) bacon and crumbles of blue cheese.
This makes about 4 generous comfort-food servings that improve with age. I find adding in fun amounts of blue cheese makes for bold flavor that your children will view with great suspicion, leaving you copious leftovers for lunch.
What’s your favorite soup for the winter months?