Friday, February 06, 2009

Potato Soup

Each week I sit down and plan out a menu for home, day by day. I have a spreadsheet to help me! Yes, I know I'm a geek and I embrace it. I plan for when we're home, when we'll be out for a evening. Then I map out the grocery store and get the items categorized. On a good day I can get through the store, with a weeks worth of ingredients in 20-30 minutes. I also save a good deal of money this way. I know what I need and I dilly-dally around looking at stuff I don't need for the week. It's a good plan and works for me!

This week, I didn't do any shopping. I wanted to save us some additional money, so we stuck to the pantry and the freezer. We did pretty good. There was pasta, some leftover butter chicken and some other frozen junk...yes, we make a meal out of tater tots and fish sticks sometimes. What of it?

That got us to Wednesday. I still didn't have a plan for Thursday. More pasta? No!

Yesterday while sitting at work, it hit me. Potato Soup. I have everything I need. It came together easily, quickly and was pretty dang tasty. Even if I went a little overboard on the roasted garlic!

I started with some bacon, for the garnish at the end. In the bacon fat, I sauted some onions and added some fresh thyme, on the stem.

Once the onions were translucent, I added one carrot and five potatoes. Add four cups of broth and simmer until the potatoes are tender.

Whiz the potatoes and vegetables with the broth until smooth. Work in batches and let the last batch be a little more lumpy, for a little texture. Stir in shredded cheddar cheese and some heavy cream for a silky soup.

Serve hot in a large bowl and garnish with some crumbled bacon. The soup was thick, creamy, filling and full of great flavor. The cheese was mellowing out in the background. The bacon brought a nice smoky chewiness to the party. And the potatoes did their job of filling and warming the belly.

Potato-Cheddar Soup

6 strips of bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 small onion, finely diced
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
2lbs potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces (about five medium potatoes)
4 cups chicken stock
4 cloves of roasted garlic
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt & pepper to taste

1) Fry the bacon in a large pot until crispy and the fat has rendered out. Reserve bacon on a paper towel lined plate. Pour out all but one tablespoon of bacon fat.

2) Add the onions to the pot with the one tablespoon of bacon fat. Saute until tender and translucent. Add the fresh thyme, carrot and potatoes. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a simmer, until the potatoes are fork tender. Prior to the next step, remove the stems of thyme.

3) Working in batches, puree the soup in a food processor or blender. Add the roasted garlic to the first batch of soup to be pureed. Process until smooth. If you would like some texture to the soup, other than silky smooth, don't process until fully smooth, leave some bits and pieces of potato.

4) Return the pureed soup to the pot and add the cheese and cream. Stir until the cheese is melted and the cream is incorporated. If you wish to thin the soup out, add some additional broth or cream. Season with salt and pepper.

5) Serve hot and garnish with the cooked bacon and if you have them, some fresh snipped chives.

NOTE: If you wish to make this soup vegetarian, skip the bacon. Just cook the onions in olive oil. And instead of chicken broth, use vegetable broth. For some additional flavor you could add about 1/2 a cup of beer. Also, if you don't have a food processor or blender, you can make this soup more rustic by mashing the tender potatoes and vegetables with a potato masher. You will have a hearty, textured soup that is a little less creamy and maybe a little more brothy.

As mentioned, this soup was really good. However there were some things I will do differently next time and those adjustments are reflected in the recipe. One, I used a full head of roasted garlic. It was too much and often overpowered the other mellow flavors. In addition, that much roasted garlic kept coming back for a visit later in the evening. Two, I used a bay leaf in the soup. I added it at the beginning and simmered it in the broth with the thyme. In the end, the bay leaf flavor didn't play well with the rest of the ingredients, so in the future I will skip it.


DC Food Blog said...

Can you share a sample weekly menu? that would be great to see how you do that. I can plan two or three days ahead but almost never for the week.

Dancer in DC said...

The soup was very good - filling and warm on a cold winter's night!

But agreed on the garlic. I didn't mind it at all while eating the soup, but it was the way it kept repeating on you later that was unpleasant.