Last week was a bit of a soup sandwich (have you ever tried to sake a sandwich out of soup? It doesn’t work). I feel exhausted just thinking about writing and reliving it all, but everything came to a relaxing halt with Sunday night’s Superbowl (Yay, Packers!) and Baked Potato Soup.
As mentioned in a earlier post, I have new math groups, one of which is testing my classroom management strategies. On Thursday, after a long day at work, I needed comfort – FOOD comfort. That night called for classic French flavors and technique – Braised Lamb Shoulder with Sweet Pommes Anna and a Pear Chutney Tart (my favorite part about that tart is the dough – a thin shortbread cookie-like sheet rustically formed to perfectly hold sweet and spicy pears. It was hard not to just eat the raw ball of dough).
Saturday provided a different type of stress: a test! In order to keep my Oregon credential, I have to take, and pass, a few tests to ensure I’m qualified to teach in the state. Saturday’s test was the ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages), and I think I did well on it. But, now it’s the waiting game to find out exactly how I did.
The test wasn’t all that inconvenient because it gave us an excuse to go to Trader Joes (the test site was on the U of O’s campus in Eugene) and we were able to spend the night in Florence, a quaint, beautiful little town on the Siuslaw River. It might have been the fact that we slept with the back door cracked a bit, or that I woke up with my mouth open, or the stress of the week finally catching up to me (OR a very likely combo of the three), but I woke Sunday morning with a terrible sore throat. This was like the kind I used to get back in high school and college which would inevitably lead to strep throat. So, the last thing I wanted to do was cook.
But it was Superbowl Sunday! And the Packers were playing!! Cheeseheads unite!! Even though Rob had to go on duty, I couldn’t watch the Superbowl without eating something sports bar-ish. I racked my brain; not having much of an appetite, I really only wanted soup. But already lounging in sweatpants by the fire, I did not want to go to the store. What to do? What to make?
BLOG to the rescue! (That would be an interesting superhero – like a giant techie nerd with super-human typing skills and Dreamweaver web design capabilities not even the Trojan virus could defeat.) Thinking about my blog, I went back my source of inspiration: the potato. Combine with my craving/limited appetite for soup, and the biggest football game of the year only minutes away from starting, I remembered a classic: Baked Potato Soup.
In this soup, I use limited cream and comparably minimal cheese, making it light and mostly guilt-free. I only par-bake the potatoes (to keep their integrity as much as possible), and use veg stock rather than chicken to enhance the vegetably taste of the potatoes. And having the underlying foundational taste of bacon fat really hits home the feeling of genuine pub food.
Sitting back with my soup, I watched Green Bay spank the Steelers, laughed at the great commercials, cringed at the bad ones, and fell asleep in front of the fire, warmed from the inside out.
I still have my sore throat this morning, so it’s a good thing I made enough soup to feed an army – I’ll need the leftovers!
GO PACK GO!
- 9 cups red potatoes, diced
- 3 oz. slab bacon, diced
- 3 large celery stocks, sliced
- 1/2 red onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp thyme leaves
- 4 c low sodium vegetable broth
- 1 c water
- 1/2 c Half & Half
- 2/3 c shredded good quality pepper jack cheese
- 1/2 c shredded good quality very sharp cheddar cheese
- Garnish: shredded pepper jack and cheddar cheese, crispy bacon, and sliced scallions.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake diced potatoes for about 15 minutes, until soft on the outside but still firm on the inside. Meanwhile, crisp up the bacon in a large pot over med-high heat. Once very crisp, remove from pot and put on towel to reserve for garnish.
Keeping about 2 tbsp of the bacon fat, saute the onions, celery, and garlic in the pot. Make sure all veg is coated in fat, and saute until just starting to soften. Add the diced potatoes, season, and saute in the pan for about 5-7 minutes. I even let the surface of the potatoes start to brown. Add the thyme leaves, veg stock, water, and Half & Half. Bring to a boil. Using an immersion blender or a stand blender, puree the soup until smooth. Keep on a simmer, and slowly stir in the two cheeses to melt and incorporate. Let simmer for about 5-10 minutes, and taste for seasoning.
Serve in a shallow bowl, topping with the bacon pieces, shredded cheeses, and scallions.