Last night, for Monday Night Dinner, I had been considering making potato cheese soup. I’d even told the kids about it and got them all excited, then I changed my mind and decided to make Chicken with Haricots Verts and Lemon Butter instead (which was a great success). I felt like I’d actually made the soup pretty recently and I like to mix it up, you know? All the same, the kids really wanted potato cheese soup and I’m a fan of soup in the winter (it’s even seemed like real winter lately. Yay!). So, seeing as how I do like to make my children happy when I can and seeing as how it’s pretty inexpensive and easy to make, I decided to go ahead and make it for dinner tonight. Plus, we had a friend stop by and soup is easy to expand.
The recipe I use is adapted from one I found on Food.com. Now, I’ve been cooking for many years and I tend to know where I can change things to suit my preference or need, or failing that, how to fix what isn’t working (most of the time). In the case of this soup, it’s a great basic form and leaves a lot of wiggle room for personalization. For example, the recipe doesn’t really contain much seasoning other than parsley so I generally substitute herbes de provence for that (I don’t often use herb or spice blends, but herbes de provence is one I’m quite keen on. It’s easy to mix your own, too). Since I’m out of that at the moment I opted to use a combo of tarragon, basil, and thyme instead. You might prefer the parsley, or maybe oregano or some Italian blend, or…? I think this is an area where you could use most any savory spice you wished. Also, the original recipe calls for Swiss cheese but I think a good nutty cheddar stands out more amongst the creamy, flavor absorbing potatoes.
And, please, whenever possible, use homemade stock. It’s easy to make and quite frugal, you use lots of scrap bits left over from other cooking: chicken carcasses, veggie ends, the inevitable tiny garlic clovelets that are too small to reasonably peel, onion skins (don’t use lemons, though, because they’ll sour the stock), etc. Just toss the scraps in a stock pot of water with whatever seasonings you like (don’t forget a bit of salt) and simmer for 2-3 hours. Then fish out the big pieces of stuff, pour through some cheesecloth to catch the finer bits, decant into mason jars (pint jars are a good size) and freeze for later use. It’s completely and utterly worth it, plus you can feel good about making the most of what you have. Store bought stock can’t hold a candle to homemade.
To Me, Winter Means Soup
- 4-6 potatoes (depending on size), peeled and quartered *I prefer Yukon Golds
- 1-2 small carrots, finely chopped
- 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
- 1 small onion, minced
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 1/2 cups milk
- 3 Tbs butter, melted
- 3 Tbs all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbs herbes de provence, or your favorite herb(s)
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup shredded aged cheddar cheese
In a large saucepan, bring potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, stock, and salt to a boil.
Reduce heat; cover and simmer until potatoes are just tender. Do not rinse: mash mixture slightly.
Stir in milk. (If the mashed potatoes and veg seem a little dry, feel free to add more stock or milk until you get the right consistency)
In a small mixing bowl, blend butter, flour, herbs, and pepper; stir into potato mixture.
Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly.
Remove from heat: add cheese and stir until cheese is almost melted.
Let soup stand for 5 minutes.
I like to serve it with a nice crusty bread…