Potato soup in some form is as old as the hills. Spuds originated in the Peruvian Andes, and that’s where the greatest variety is still cultivated to this day. From patatas or patas, to batatas, papas, potatoes, pomme de terre, krompir, aartappel, peruna, or картофель – pretty much every language has a name for them – and fantastic dishes to match.
Here in El Norte, many restaurant chains made loaded baked potato soup pretty famous, and it took no time at all for home chefs to catch on.
There’s a couple primary considerations when making this stuff – namely an all dairy versus stock and dairy base, and how thick the soup will end up. For my mind, there’s no question as to the right way to go – it’s stock and dairy for base, and it’s soup, not stew.
As to the latter point, almost every recipe you’ll find adds either a flour roux or corn starch as a thickener – I’ll never understand why that’s done, considering that mashed potatoes are perfect for the job – just designate two or three small spuds for thickening duty and you’re good to go.
You can use any stock you like – preferably homemade and fresh, but go with what you’ve got. This is a great fridge clearer if you think about it – anything you’d like on a spud can go into the mix. A solid aromatic base is a must, and also is a great place for a little variety. You’ll find lots of options for both stocks and bases right here, of course.
Seasoning is also a wide open field – anything from simple salt and pepper to favorite blends will afford ample opportunity for exploration and expression – Italian or Greek mixes, herbes de Provence or fines herbs come to mind right off the bat, but do what you like most – North African or Indian would be spectacular, I’d bet.
What potatoes to use? Whatever you’ve got that needs using, really. Pretty much any variety will do, though if I was buying, I’d go with Yukon golds. The harder, waxier whites and reds are probably not my first choice – they don’t have the richness of a gold or a russet, and they don’t mash particularly well either.
Urban’s Loaded Baked Potato Soup – This’ll make 8 portions, easy.
6-8 potatoes, 2-3 small ones well done and mashed
4 Cups Stock (poultry or veggie is best)
2 Cups Heavy Cream
2 Cups Whole Milk
1 small sweet Onion
1/2 Sweet Pepper
2-4 cloves Garlic
2 Tablespoons Butter
2 teaspoons Mineral Salt
2 teaspoons ground Black Pepper
1 teaspoon Mexican Oregano
5-6 shakes Tabasco
3-4 drops Red Boat Fish Sauce
For Garnish – Use what you like!
4-6 strips thick cut Bacon
1 Cup Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese
2-3 Green Onions
5-6 Garlic Chives
Sour Cream or Crema
Preheat oven to 400° F and set a rack in the middle slot.
Set your spuds right on the rack and let them bake for about 45 minutes, then check them with a fork – You want done but firm, not super soft.
When your spuds are done, leave the smallest two or three in for another 15 minute bake – Those will be your thickening spuds.
Pull the rest to cool enough to handle.
Peel, trim and dice onion and sweet pepper.
Peel, trim and mince garlic.
Trim and slice green onions and chives into roughly 1/4” rounds.
Cut bacon into roughly 1/2” squares.
Pull your thickening spuds from the oven and let cool a bit.
Remove skins from spuds.
In a mixing bowl, combine the three thickening spuds, the butter and a splash of milk. Mash with a fork to a fairly smooth consistency, and set aside.
Cut the baked potatoes into roughly 1/2” chunks.
Portion all your ingredients and lay out your mise en place.
Set garnishes on table for service.
In a stock pot over medium heat, add the bacon lardons and sauté until crispy, about 5-7 minutes.
Remove the bacon to a paper towel lined plate or bowl.
Add onion and peppers to the hot grease in the pot and sauté until the onions start to turn translucent, about 3-4 minutes.
Add garlic and sauté until the raw garlic smell dissipates.
Deglaze the pot with a cup or so of stock, and scrape the naughty bits off the bottom.
Add the rest of the stock and bring to a low boil, then reduce heat to a bare simmer – cook for 30 minutes.
Bring heat back up to medium, add the cream and milk, and the mashed potato mixture, then stir to thoroughly incorporate.
Add the potato chunks and stir them in well.
Add salt, pepper, oregano, Tabasco, and red boat, and stir to incorporate.
Drop the soup back to a bare simmer and cook for 30 minutes to allow everything to get cozy.
Serve with a nice cold Pilsner, topped with all the goodies, and maybe a chunk of crusty bread to sop things up with.
Then sit back, loosen your belt, and maybe groan a little – you’ve earned it.