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Monday, October 8, 2007

Baked Potato Soup

Some recipes add variety to your palate and nothing more, but some recipes become instant family classics. This recipe was an immediate classic in our home: pure comfort in a bowl, perfect to ward off the chill of autumn. I actually developed this recipe as a comforting, all-natural meal that I gave to a friend undergoing chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer. When I prepared it for her, I used all organic ingredients, because people in chemotherapy often have increased sensitivity to unnatural ingredients or additives. She loved it. After I gave her the soup, I made it again and this time added beer. The addition of the wheat ale really took this comfort food into the stratosphere. I gave a bowl to my husband, garnished with baby green onions. His reaction? He was beside himself. The actual quote was, "Holy $#!?. Please tell me you wrote this down. This is incredible."

I'm submitting this recipe for the two year anniversary edition of Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Kalyn's Kitchen. Potato isn't the world's most unique vegetable, but it is certainly a favorite, with a well deserved association with comfort. My herb is a garnish of chopped baby green onion. So here you have it. A natural, flavorful, bowl of pure comfort.


*A note on brands: The specific brands used in cooking can affect the taste. This is simply true, and it is more true of some elements (like beer and chicken stock) than others (like milk). I am loathe to recommend particular products, because I don't want to jeopardize the implicit trust we have, namely that I'm offering you delicious food motivated by nothing but the desire to create the best taste. So let me say I am not being paid to recommend any particular brand of product. I just want to let you know what I actually used, because it was glorious when I put it all together. For the chicken stock I used an organic low sodium brand available at Whole Foods. The ale was Goose Island 312 urban wheat ale. Goose Island is a local brewery in Chicago, and in my experience their products are particularly good when used in savory dishes.

2 large baking potatoes
1 stalk celery, approx 3/4 cups chopped
1 medium carrot, approx 3/4 cups chopped
8 oz yellow onion, approx 1.5 cups chopped
4 Tbsp butter
1⁄2 C milk
2 heaping Tbsp flour
1 Cup Fontina cheese
1/2 – 1 Cup chicken stock* or milk
1 Cup ale-style beer*
salt and pepper to taste

First prick potatoes with a fork and bake in the oven in their skins. Approximately 45 minutes. When they are soft, remove from oven, allow to cool slightly, remove skin and cube potatoes.

Roughly chop the celery, onion and carrot. These three elements, in these proportions, are the makings for the classic French mirepoix, a combination of aromatics. Saute in butter. Allow them to rest in place slightly to develop browned (but not blackened) edges. This caramelizes the natural sugars in the vegetables and deepens the flavor. When the onions are beginning to be translucent, add flour and stir (to form a roux). Allow to cook approx 3-5 min until the flour slightly browns.
What is Mirepoix?

This dish begins with a basic French mirepoix. Mirepoix is a combination of chopped aromatics. The most classic version contains onions, carrots, and celery in a 2:1:1 ratio.

Remove from heat, add milk and stir to incorporate.

When the roux is well incorporated into the milk (no visible lumps of flour), add finely shredded cheese. Stir well. Return to a moderate flame, stirring constantly to melt cheese.

Blend with a hand held blender to desired smoothness. Some like fully pureed, while others like some chunks of potato. You may even choose to reserve 1/4 of the cubed baked potato to add as a garnish after fully pureeing the rest of the soup. At this point, the mixture will be very thick.

Five minutes before serving, add beer. Stir. Add chicken broth or additional milk until it reaches your desired consistency.

Garnish as desired. Recommended garnishes: finely chopped green onions, lightly pan-crisped pancetta, sour cream, or chives.

Makes 8 first-course servings (without garnishes). Nutritional Information (per serving): 210 calories, 10 g fat, 3 g fiber

Lighten up...

I happen to be of the opinion that this soup as written is a worthwhile indulgence worth every calorie in it. However, if you want to improve the Nutritional Information to decrease fat and calories, you can reduce the cheese and butter. Using 3 Tbsp butter and 2/3 C cheese gives you: 175 calories, 7.5 g fat, and 3 g fiber per serving.


Kalyn Denny said...

It sounds like the ultimate comfort food. Potato soup like this was something I always loved when my mother made it (without the beer of course!) Your version sounds just fabulous. Great recipe instructions too! Thanks for helping celebrate 2 years of WHB!

Erin said...

Thanks so much Kalyn. If you have a favorite already you should really try adding a touch of beer. I was pleasantly surprised by how much complexity and depth it added.

Helene said...

A must try for winter season. Will mark ist. :)

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