This is not something I normally make during the summertime, however last week we had two unseasonably cool days, so I was willing to heat up the house a bit. This soup is thick and creamy… and with some bread or croissants, you can definitely make a meal out of it. It should be noted that this is not a quick meal, you will need a couple of hours to make this, but it’s not all active cooking time. Here’s what you’ll need:
4 large russet potatoes
1 pound thick cut bacon
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 Tablespoons bacon fat* (see note below)
2/3 cup flour
8 cups milk
6-8 green onions, thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons minced fresh chives
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon table salt
1 Tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
*If using bacon fat in the soup weirds you out, you could substitute more butter instead. Using some bacon fat really gives the soup a full, well rounded, bacon-y flavor.
- Bake the potatoes as you normally would for a dinner side dish. I usually pick out the 4 largest potatoes I can find at the grocery store, poke them a few times with a fork (to release steam… you don’t want a potato explosion in your oven, do you?) and bake them at 350 degrees for about 75 minutes. Sometimes they take a little longer. I usually start checking them after an hour. I wish I had a better way to describe when the potatoes are done, but I don’t. It’s when they “feel right.” I suppose if you’ve never baked a potato before, this recipe probably isn’t for you. No need to oil the skins or salt them or anything. You’ll be removing the skin later. Allow the baked potatoes to cool on a cooling rack for one hour.
- Cook the bacon until crispy. You can do it in a frying pan on the stove, but I prefer to do it on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper in the oven. The bacon cooks much more evenly. You want the bacon to be fairly well done (but don’t burn it!). Once you add it to the soup later, the bacon loses some crispiness as it absorbs soup liquid, so if you start with undercooked, fattier bits, they’ll be really rubbery in the final product – not good. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the rendered bacon fat and set aside.
- Chop the cooked bacon into bits and set aside.
- Peel the potatoes with your hands. It will be easier than you think, but may take some time. Cut potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes. If you want bigger chunks, that’s fine. Do whatever you want. I just like smaller bite sized potato pieces in my soup. Set aside the cubed potatoes.
- Add the butter and bacon fat to a large pot or dutch oven. Melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour and whisk together to form a roux. Cook over low heat about 5 minutes, until bubbly.
- Slowly add the 8 cups of milk, whisking constantly. Do your best to not form lumps of roux within the milk. If your roux seems to be clumping, just keep whisking. It’ll all work itself out. Once all of the milk is added, turn the heat up to medium and continue whisking constantly until the mixture starts steaming and begins to thicken, but isn’t simmering yet.
- Once it starts to thicken slightly, add the potatoes, onions and chives. Stir with a wooden spoon constantly until the soup comes to a simmer. During this time it will get significantly thicker. Be sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the pot while you’re stirring. Reduce the heat and continue to simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the bacon, stir to combine.
- Add the shredded cheese, 1/2 cup at a time. Stir each addition until completely melted. If you add all 8 ounces at once, you risk the cheese not melting properly, and you certainly don’t want to ruin your soup at this stage.
- Add the sour cream, salt and pepper. Stir until sour cream is melted into the soup.
- Add additional salt and pepper to taste.
- Garnish with additional cheese, bacon and chives.