I like soup.
The winter after I left college, I was living in another college town, in a house full of girls I grew up with. Some of us were working, others at school. One of my hobbies was visiting a restaurant downtown for lunch, having their soup-and-foccaccia lunch special, then going home to suss out the ingredients and replicate the soups.
That’s how I ended up with Baked Potato Soup. It has a different taste from boiled potato soups or chowders (a bonus, in my mind), makes up pretty quickly, and can be done very flexibly to meet a wide range of personal tastes and dietary needs. I’ve done it in vegetarian styles, in carnivorian styles, even in low-fat (which is not my normal mode of operation… give me small quantities of high-quality real fats, and I’m much happier.)
The recipe is one of those annoyingly inexact things, but give it a go one of these winter evenings, or for breakfast! It’s very filling, and a great comfort. We like to serve it with fresh cornbread, or buttermilk biscuits, or fresh from the griddle homemade English muffins.
Count on one medium baking potato for each person you’re feeding, plus one or two “for the pot.” Bakers work better than waxy potatoes for this. Give them a good scrub, and either pierce and wrap in foil to be baked in an oven, or pierce and microwave them until soft.
Smash each potato with the heel of your hand to open them and cool them a bit faster.
Use a spoon or your fingers to skim off some of the potato peel. I do leave some intact, but you don’t want too much in the soup, or it can spoil the texture.
Puree the potatoes with a combination of broth and water, into a thick soup, then heat it through on the stove.
This is where it gets flexible: you can use all water, or water and chicken broth, or water and vegetable broth, or water and bouillon cubes (Mexican chicken bouillon doesn’t taste like celery, remember!).You can make a very thick soup, or a thinner one, as you prefer.
Add a bit of salt and pepper (not much), if you like them.
Then, set the soup out with a variety of toppings, and let everyone suit themselves! You might set out some crisp chopped bacon, or ham; grated cheeses; steamed veggies; chopped green onion; roasted garlic; caramelized onion; spicy black beans with cumin and cilantro; sour cream, Greek yoghurt… really, the sky is the limit! Anything you might enjoy on a baked potato, you can toss onto the top of your soup bowl, in whatever proportion you wish.
(One warning: if you take this to a Church Lady luncheon, you may have to reassure the Ladies that there are no rules to the soup, and they can top it with as much or as little of anything as they prefer. Some Church Ladies are really, really worried about “doing it the wrong way.” Be a good Not Molly example, and load yourself up willy-nilly.)
Keep the initial portion size pretty small, though. One ladle of soup is far more filling than you might imagine, it being essentially liquid baked potato. My husband refers to it as “Liquid Lead.”
It will keep leftover in the fridge for several days, but doesn’t freeze particularly well, unless you’re willing to run it through the blender after thawing (the texture changes some if you don’t re-blend it.)