My first thought was maybe some butternut squash soup, so I headed to the Farmer’s Market last Wednesday to see what I could find. Unfortunately, butternut squash was not in season, even if I had a good recipe in mind. I looked at the still wide selection of fresh vegetables and my mind went to work on a plan.
Feenie Stoltzfus offered zucchini, squash, potatoes, beets, onions, beans and tomatoes from her stand. “They are all grown locally and organically on Amish farms, and are for sale for good prices,” she said.
I purchased some scallions from her, and some new potatoes and onions from another vendor. From Lyndell and Kathy Payton, I bought some tasty dinner rolls. With a good portion of the vegetables in hand, I decided to go to work on some creamy baked potato soup.
After work, I headed to the Cadiz Record Test Kitchen at Hawkins’ apartment. Though it is called baked potato soup, and is a great way to use up left-over baked potatoes, I started by boiling a half-pound of white new potatoes until tender. Remove the potatoes from the water and cut into bite-sized pieces. I left the skin on them, but if you like skinless potatoes, feel free to remove them.
To season our five-quart pot, I made a mirepoix of one finely chopped rib of celery, an equal amount of carrot, and the bulbs of three of the scallions, peeled and chopped. Sautee the vegetables in a tablespoon of butter until the onions are translucent and the other veggies are nice and tender. Strain the mirepoix out of the butter with a fork and set it aside for now.
Remember how we made a roux when making gumbo? This soup also calls for a roux, though a much lighter one. Add nine tablespoons plus two teaspoons more butter to the pan (two-thirds of a cup butter total, with the teaspoon already in the pan) and two thirds of a cup of flour and heat at medium stirring constantly with a fork. Allow the roux to cook only slightly, until a slightly off-white color (about like vanilla ice cream.) Once it reaches that state, gently add seven cups of milk, again stirring constantly. When the mixture begins to thicken, stir in the mirepoix, potatoes, a quarter cup of green onion tops, a tablespoon of dried chives and a pinch of dill. For extra seasoning, add a half teaspoon (or more if desired) sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir well and simmer on low heat for ten minutes.
This soup can be called loaded baked potato soup because we are about to add everything we can to make a loaded baked potato. For bacon, I used a well-known local brand with sun-dried tomato flavoring. For extra-crispy bacon, heat it in the microwave oven at high power for a minute a slice. I made about nine slices for the soup. Microwave-cooked bacon tends not to curl and remains crispy from one end to the other. Crumble the bacon and add it to the soup.
Cheddar cheese and sour cream have their place in the pot as well. A full cup of sour cream thickens the soup a bit more and adds flavor while a cup-and-a-quarter of shredded sharp cheddar cheese gives some extra bite. Return to a low simmer and stir well, until the soup is hot and the cheese is completely melted.
I served the soup with onion rings and some of the rolls I bought from the Peyton’s at the Farmers’ Market. Hawkins and I each enjoyed two stout bowls of the tasty soup. We planned to watch the 70’s “classic” Truck Turner, featuring Isaac Hayes, though the DVD we received had been broken in half. The next day I brought leftovers to the office where Matt and Michelle enjoyed lunch. Dane already ate, and Vyron said “I don’t like potato soup.” I think Hawkins got a bowl, Angela was out, and I am not sure if Becky and Cindy got any or not. I hope they did. Everyone who tried it seemed to like it. Michelle said she no longer needed to take her family out for potato soup, and would ask me to cook it for them.
We got to the movie over the weekend when we inaugurated Hawkins’ new grill with a barbecued pork shoulder. Matt, Sanci and Aaron dropped in for a bit of dinner and to enjoy the funky movie. Thanks again to Hawkins’ dad for the great grill. It’s top-notch. With hot soup on Wednesday and barbecue on the weekend, a good time was had by all. Good eating.