Potato soup is definitely one of my favorite comfort foods. I remember Grandma cooking it for over the years as I was growing up. I distinctly remember the oval shaped bowls she would serve it in, and how she'd pile a plate up with buttered bread that you could dip in the soup (because no meal is a meal with buttered bread according to Grandma). And I also remember the day she taught me how to make it - in my Aunt's kitchen one sunny afternoon. I was over energetic and made so much we had to split it into two pots!
I've made this soup for myself for many years. I've shared the recipe and made it for friends and family. And as much as my version of the soup has changed from the original - I still always think of Grandma. Funnily though, I used to call her and tell her that I was making it, and she always responded with "okay." Apparently it doesn't hold as much meaning to her as it does to me. Haha!
Grandma's potato soup was fairly straight-forward, lots of ham, onions, and carrots in a pot - bring to a boil, add a few things and seasonings and you're done. Oh and she ALWAYS made drop biscuit batter (not homemade mind you, but Bisquick - and they were always great). One of the first things I did away with was the drop biscuits. They're really nice, but they fill me up too quickly and I'd much rather devour more of the soup.
The soup has become a staple for cold or unpleasant nights (both externally and internally). And yesterday, with the rain/snow/sleet it was a perfect day for me to make a big pot of soup. My recent version is a hybrid of potato soup and baked potato soup. I made this version a couple of weeks ago (I know, so close together? But it's cold!!) and keith raved about it - I think it was the addition of the sour cream.
7 Russett potatoes, peeled and cut up into chunks
6 slices bacon (2 sliced cooked and reserved, 4 sliced chopped)
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 large, thick slice of ham (1/2" - 1" thick), cubed
Salt & Pepper
1 8oz container Sour Cream
2 Tbl. butter
1 bunch chives, chopped
2 Tbl. corn starch
Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Cook 2 slices of bacon until crispy. Set aside to crumble over the soup before serving. In a large pot (I used my Dutch Oven), pour 2 Tbl. olive oil over medium-high heat. Throw in the chopped bacon and begin rendering off the fat. When the bacon is getting crispy, throw in the onions, garlic and carrots. Sprinkle with a little salt to bring out the moisture and help them begin to soften. Cook for about 5-6 minutes until everything begins to soften. Toss in the chopped ham and stir it in. Cook this for 2 minutes or so just to bring the ham up to heat. Throw in 5 of the chopped potatoes (this was something new I tried, I'll explain later). Sprinkle the potatoes with salt, and then stir them into the mixture and let this cook for another 2-3 minutes to allow the potatoes to begin to break down.
(My goal is to have a good portion of the potatoes break way down in order to thicken the soup - but I also LOVE big chunks of fully cooked potatoes that are still something to bite into, so that's why I retain 2 of the potatoes and add them later).
Fill the pot with water, leaving at least an inch or more room from the top. Raise the heat to high, and bring this to a boil. I let it boil on high for about 10 minutes to really get the cooking process started. While this is cooking, in a small bowl combine the corn starch with a few tablespoons of water and mix completely. After 10 minutes on high, add the remaining potatoes, a handful of chopped chives (retaining just enough to sprinkle over the top before serving), all of the sour cream (retaining 2 dollops for serving), the butter, pepper (to taste), and a handful of cheese. Stir in the corn starch mixture (this is only a thickening agent). Let this come back up to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and cook for 30 - 40 minutes until all the potatoes are tender. Very important - stir the soup OFTEN. The combination of the corn starch and the cheese will cause things to stick to the bottom of the pot, and if you're not stirring every few minutes, you could get some burnt flavor. Make sure to taste the soup for flavor - you might need to add some more salt and/or pepper.
Ladle the soup into big soup bowls (oval if you have them!). Sprinkle some cheese over top, then crumble one slice of bacon over each bowl. Add a dollop of sour cream in the center, and sprinkle with chives.