Potato soup. Man, nothing takes me back to my childhood more than a good bowl of potato soup. I remember being like 12 or so, sledding all day and then entering my grandmother’s house and the smell…oh lord the smell. It enveloped you like a warm blanket. As I got older, I paid more attention to my grandmother making the soup than I did the sledding. I’m so glad I did.
Tonight I made my potato soup, and it struck me that maybe it’s time for me to share this wonderful soup. I’ve taken some liberties over the years, but I think Grandma Gregor would be proud. For my vegetarian and vegan friends, I will offer substitutions at the end. Note that I cook by feel more than “coding” it, so you may have to bear with me. Also keep in mind this makes enough soup for about 8 people.
Brown about 3 strips of diced bacon over a low heat. You want the bacon to crisp, but you also need the fat to render out. Before the bacon gets brown, add about 2 small diced sweet onions. I like Walla Walla’s, but you could use plain yellow as well. Make sure you stir during this time, as you don’t want the onions to burn. Dice about 4 new potatoes. Add to the mix and stir. Let the potatoes pick up some color before adding about 4 cups chicken stock. Bring this to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Take a large head of garlic, yes I said a whole head, place on a sheet of aluminum foil larger enough to wrap in. Drizzle olive oil over top, wrap it up, and place it in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. At this point, pour a nice glass of wine and find a place to just relax for 30 minutes. A patio is perfect for this. After 30 minutes, turn off the oven, but let the garlic stay in for 15 more minutes. Use this time to write a note to yourself about why you like yourself. Take the note and hide it until you need it. You’ll know when. After you finish the note, check the soup to make sure it’s not getting too low on liquid. If so, add water. You want it to be like a thin soup at this point. Take a small pan and put in about a half stick of butter and the oil from the garlic. Heat over a low heat until the butter melts. Squeeze in the roasted garlic. Get it all now, it wont hurt you. Use a whisk to blend in the garlic until you have the start of a good paste. Add in flour a little at a time until the mixture is almost like play dough. Let this cook over a low heat until it just starts to turn a light brown. Using a ladle and a whisk, add in broth from the soup a little at a time, whisking the entire time, until you have a really think broth. At this point add in several baby mushrooms. You, that’s you Paul, can leave this out if you like. Let this mixture stay on a very low heat until the mushrooms give up some of their juice. As this simmers, use a large dice on about 6 good size new potatoes and add them to the soup with enough water to cover. Once the ‘shrooms are ready, add the entire saucepan to the soup. This will thicken up the soup, so you may need to add more liquid. At this point if you are a meat eater, you can add some polish sausage. Let this whole mess simmer for at least an hour, or until the large diced potatoes are tender.Turn the soup off, and let it get lukewarm. You want the consistency at this point to be a little thicker than you think it needs to be, but not too thick. Once it cools a little, add in some sour cream, a little at a time, whisking to make sure it doesn’t curdle, to taste. Once you have it, add a little salt and pepper to your taste, and bring it back so a very low simmer. Take several pieces of a good Jewish rye bread, caraway seed style, and coat with melted butter. Place these in the oven until toasted then cut into croutons. 15 minutes or so before serving, turn off the heat. Add a little paprika and some chopped fresh parsley. Do not stir in, let it rest on top. Right before serving stir the soup, ladle into bowls and top with the croutons. Enjoy.
Substitutions. Use vegetable stock instead of chicken, but make sure you add more olive oil to the garlic while it roasts. You need the oil in this soup. Instead of bacon, use a very light olive oil to sauté the onions in. As for the sour cream and butter, you are on your own. I’m sure you have tricks for thickening soups, I’ve heard that tofu breaks down nicely, but you have to watch the heat.
Well, there you have it. Potato soup for the soul. Take this and modify as you will. If you do, all I ask is you let me in on any secrets you come up with. Potato soup is like a good friend. It’s meant to be shared.