This soup (like the Wisconsin Cheddar Beer Soup) comes from Cook’s Illustrated: Soups and Stews. In fact, the recipe for Loaded Baked Potato Soup is on the page directly opposite of Wisconsin Cheddar Beer Soup. Coincidence? Nope! I read them both and tabbed them immediately. I have a thing for tabs.
I’ll give you fair warning: this soup, while absolutely amazing, would not make it into any diet plan…unless a diet plan included cheese, heavy cream, sour cream, bacon, and fried potato skins. Made from scratch, I would still eat this soup over any other processed soup on the market without thought. You just probably shouldn’t eat this every day. Save it for those cold, wet, dreary evenings when you need some fantastic soul-food. Or, even better, save it for a potluck! The smell of this soup alone draws folks over like moths to a flame and it’s hearty enough to serve in small portions.
Loaded Baked Potato Soup (from Cook’s Illustrated: Soups and Stews)
8 slices of raw bacon, chopped
3 lbs. russet potatoes, scrubbed (about 6)
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 T unbleached AP flour
4 C low-sodium chicken broth
1 C heavy cream
1 sprig fresh thyme (or 1 t dried)
1 lb. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (~ 4 Cups)
1 C sour cream, plus extra for garnish
3 scallions, sliced thin plus extra for garnish
black pepper to taste
- Cook bacon pieces in a Dutch Oven or heavy-bottomed deep stock pot over medium heat for about 8 minutes, or until crisp. While bacon is cooking, use a vegetable peeler to remove potato skins in wide strips, saving the peels. Cut the peeled potatoes into 3/4″ pieces.
- Using a slotted spoon, remove cooked bacon and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Blot gently with another paper towel to remove excess oil and set aside.
- Add potato skins to bacon fat in the pot and cook until crisp – about another 8 minutes. Remove the skins to another paper towel-lined plate and blot as before. Set aside.
- Add onion to the fat remaining in the pot and cook about 6 minutes or until golden. Stir in garlic and flour and cook about 1 minute or until fragrant. Gradually whisk in the broth, cream, and thyme. Then stir in potatoes and bring the mix to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and let it cook until the potatoes are tender, 7 – 10 minutes.
- Discard the thyme (if using a sprig) and transfer 2 Cups of cooked potatoes to a small bowl. Set aside.
- Puree the remaining soup using an immersion blender or, if using a conventional blender, blend in batches until smooth and return to the pot.
- Warm the now-smooth soup over medium-high heat. Once warmed, remove soup from heat and slowly stir in handfuls of cheese until all the cheese has been melted in. Whisk in sour cream. Return reserved potatoes to soup and season with pepper to taste.
- Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with bacon, potato skins, scallions, cheese, and sour cream.
Mmm, my mouth is watering just remembering this soup! One of the many things I love about it is how folks can adapt it a bit to suit their tastes: load on all the garnishes or sprinkle just a few – or none! This soup has a multitude of flavors all by itself. As I said before, it wouldn’t win any health awards. That said, you simply can’t deny the benefits of cooking from scratch with fresh ingredients. Just ask Jamie Oliver.
I’m sure you could tweak the recipe a bit to lower the calorie count. Would it taste as good? Probably not. Would it still be a satisfying meal? Most definitely. I used regular sour cream, so first off change that to reduced-fat. You could probably even omit the sour cream altogether in the soup itself without a fuss and serve it solely as a garnish. I would also try halving the cheese. I know, I love cheese too, but the original soup is so thick that I’m convinced you could get away with a ½ Cup of it. Finally, nix the heavy cream and use whole or reduced-fat milk. I’m going to try these methods the next time around and see how it goes.
Overall Enjoyment: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥