The idea for this soup originated at my dentist's office -- not because I had a toothache (I was there for a checkup), but because the receptionist had a ton of leftover mashed potatoes and wanted an idea for using them.
I suggested that she thin the mashed potatoes with chicken broth or milk to make a soup, then top each serving with bacon, chives, cheddar cheese and sour cream.
It sounded good, but I didn't have any leftover mashed potatoes. I did, however, have baking potatoes in the pantry. I cooked them in the microwave and soon enough, I had soup.
If you have leftover ham, you can use it instead of the bacon in this recipe. Sauté the onion in a little butter or olive oil, and stir in the chopped ham just before you take the soup off the heat. Smoked sausage, such as kielbasa, also would be delicious. Cut it into small pieces and sauté until browned, then stir into the hot soup. Or leave out the meat and stir in blanched broccoli and shredded cheese to make broccoli-cheese-potato soup.
BAKED POTATO SOUP
Yield: 6 servings
2 large baking potatoes
2 thick or 3 thin slices bacon, diced
1 medium onion, minced
1 quart chicken stock
1/2 cup milk
Ground black pepper
Chopped parsley, for optional garnish
Snipped chives, for optional garnish
Finely sliced green onions, for optional garnish
Shredded cheddar cheese, for optional garnish
Sour cream, for optional garnish
Bake potatoes in the oven or microwave. When cool enough to handle, cut in half lengthwise. Remove and discard potato skins. Cut potatoes into 2-inch chunks.
Cook bacon over medium-high heat in a large nonstick saucepan or medium stockpot until crispy. Remove from heat. Remove bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels, then set aside. Remove all but 1 tablespoon bacon fat from the pan.
Return the pan to medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté until it is tender and starts to brown. Stir in stock; bring to a simmer. Stir in cooked potatoes. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
Using an immersion blender or working in batches with a counter top blender, pureé the soup. Place over medium-high heat and return to a simmer. Stir in milk and salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, ladle into bowls or mugs. Top each serving with bacon and your choice of garnishes: ground black pepper, parsley, chives, green onions, cheese, sour cream.
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