I don’t know about you, but when the weather gets colder, and the nights get shorter . . . I start to itch for fall and all my favorite chilly weather comfort food soups and stews. If you have a big stew pot or Dutch Oven, now’s the time to get that baby dressed to impress . . . ’cause we’re taking her out! 🙂
The Dutch Oven is the workhorse of cold weather cooking. From hearty soups and stews, to comforting chicken pot pies or even no-knead bread, this one-pot wonder can go seamlessly from stovetop to oven, to table, for a beautiful presentation. Today, I’m going to use my 4.5 Flame Le Creuset Dutch Oven, a gift from my wonderful hubby, to make some hearty potato soup. What could be better than creamy, warm goodness on a rainy evening? Not much!
What are we waiting for? Let’s do this!
Perfect Potato Soup (product of my own madness– feel free to change it up and share it up, but please link back here so no one steals my work 🙂
6 large potatoes, scrubbed (3 will be baked, and 3 will be diced)
4 carrots, peeled and diced
3 celery ribs, washed and sliced
1 large onion, diced
1 stick butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
“3 inches” of a Velveeta log (not sure how else to measure that)
1/2 cup flour
5-6 cups whole milk
2 tbsp. chicken bouillon
2 cups fully cooked, chopped ham
Directions: Sauté onions, celery, carrots, salt, pepper, garlic, and 3 diced potatoes in butter in a large Dutch oven until vegetables are soft. When vegetables are tender, add in flour and gradually stir in enough milk to make a creamy, somewhat thick soup. Add in Velveeta and the mashed pulp from baked potatoes. Add in chicken bouillon and ham and heat until very hot, but not boiling (soup will thicken as you stir– keep scraping the bottom). Adjust spices to taste and serve immediately, garnished with shredded cheese and crumbled bacon.
Now, in pictures! 🙂 And please remember to follow me on Facebook and Pinterest for more great recipes!
First, to make good potato soup, you need . . . POTATOES! (And you thought I was going to say “ability.” Naw. If I can make it, anyone can!). There are various ways to get your potatoes ready to go. Me, personally, I bake potatoes in the microwave because it’s fast and convenient. To do this, wash either 3 large or 4-5 small potatoes (I’m using 5 because they’re little red ones), and poke them all over with a knife. Place them on a plate in the microwave and zap those babies for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, carefully check them (they will be very hot), and if they aren’t soft to the touch, flip them and cook a few minutes longer (fewer potatoes takes less time). I generally start “baking” these potatoes when I start the soup, so they will be ready by the time my chowder base is ready.
If you have some leftover baked potatoes, those will do nicely, and you won’t need to bake your own. I’ve also used leftover mashed potatoes (the real kind– not the boxed ones) with great success. The baked centers of these are basically going to be used to thicken our soup. So if you’re sick of looking at that tired old baked potato you brought home from Texas Roadhouse and haven’t felt like eating, yet, I won’t judge.
Basically, this is a very forgiving recipe. You can’t mess it up. I love recipes like that.
Now, while we’re talking “recipes,” I just want to say that I never make this soup the same way twice. I’ve been making this recipe for years and years– I started making it as a teenager, because my Dad adores potato soup. I continued to tweak it over the years until I got it the way I liked it best. So I have a basic formula, but I make it a little different each time, depending what I have on hand. I have switched the ham for turkey sausage or kielbasa, I have added sour cream when I have it, and I have used cornstarch instead of flour to make a gluten free version. You mean I could have gluten free potato soup? You’re joking.
Nope. It’s amazing, and you’d never know it was gluten free.
I read somewhere, once, that, if you can’t explain something simply, then you don’t understand it well enough, yourself. I think that’s true. If you understand the “bones” of what makes a good cream soup, you can apply this knowledge to almost any kind of chowder or soup, and soon you will become a soup extraordinaire! 🙂 I make homemade soup constantly throughout the cold months, and you can, too! 🙂 There is something so very satisfying about grabbing a big, heavy soup pot and starting to throw things in, however your heart leads . . . and then coming up with something delicious and satisfying. And if that dish makes your entire house smell like comfort and brings smiles to the cold faces of your loved ones when they come in begging for a hot meal . . . well, all the better!
Start out by melting your butter. This makes a lot of soup, so it takes a lot of butter. Just think– you are making about 15 servings, so it’s really not too bad, per serving. Turn your Dutch Oven on medium heat and allow it to heat up. Low and slow is the name of the cream soup game– if you turn it up too high, a milk-based soup will scorch. Eeeewwwww. Breathe deeply and enjoy the experience.
Add in your onions and celery. You can feel free to add more than I have indicated, if you want. Adding extra veggies to a soup is a great way to add heartiness without adding a lot of calories.
Now in go the carrots!
Go ahead and throw in your diced potatoes, too– not the 3 you baked, but the 3 raw ones. Cube them into small pieces and throw them in there. The more the merrier. We want the vegetables to be nice and soft.
Cook these vegetables for about 5-10 minutes, until they soften. You don’t want them mushy– just soft enough that you can poke a knife through them easily. Turn your heat down a bit and add the flour. If you have a Gluten sensitivity, cornstarch can easily be substituted at the end (not at this point), dissolved in a few tsp. of water. Ask me if you need clarification on this.
The flour is your thickener– it is the magic that turns your watery milk base into a creamy, divine chowder-type soup. Sometimes I need a little more or a little less, depending on how “juicy” my vegetables are, so add gradually and stop when you have enough.
Basically, you want your vegetables to be covered in flour, but no white to remain, like in the picture, above.
Now, gradually start adding your milk. We are creating a “white sauce,” or “roux.” Basically, a white sauce is a flour/butter mixture gradually stirred together with milk, on low heat, and constantly stirred. It is the basis of all cream soups– broccoli, clam chowder, potato . . . pretty much anything creamy and delicious.
Add milk about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly, and stir until the floury vegetables kind of “drink up” the fluid. You will be able to see a line form in the pan when you draw your spoon through the mixture. It will be very thick– but don’t worry, because it’s going to turn from thick to creamy as you add the milk.
This is after I’ve added about 1.5 cups of milk. Notice that I can still draw a line through it.
Here is the soup with all the milk added. Think cream soup. Don’t worry if it isn’t as thick as you want– it will thicken even more as it heats, and the addition of cheese and baked potato filling will make it even thicker.
Speaking of cheese, go ahead and cut your Velveeta into chunks and add that in, now.
This is the soup after the milk and cheese have been added. See how the soup coats the spoon, but isn’t terribly thick or thin? That’s what it should look like.
At this point, your potatoes should be done. If they are nice and soft, go ahead and split them open and scoop out the fillings with a spoon. We don’t want the skins– just the soft, puffy insides.
When you have all your potato “meat” scooped out, roughly chop it into smaller pieces. This is just to make sure that the pieces are bite-sized and you don’t get a huge potato chunk when you’re eating your soup, later on.
Don’t think too hard about this– just basically cut them into smaller pieces so no one gets a huge iceberg of potato when they think it’s just a small, unassuming piece floating on the surface . . . just ask Titanic about that. 😉 Go ahead and add the potatoes to the soup.
Now, you can add some meat, if you want. My favorite meat to use is cooked ham (and I generally freeze a few sandwich bags’ worth of meat after I cook a ham, just for this purpose). Make sure that the meat is cooked, first, before you add it to your soup. You can also use bacon, kielbasa, or any kind of meat that you like. Chop it into small pieces and add it into your cream base.
Much of the flavor of a full-bodied soup comes about when the soup slowly simmers over an hour or two. That way, the vegetables, ham, and cheese have a chance to meet and get acquainted– maybe they will even become friends. And that’s how love gets translated into food. (Well . . . that’s my interpretation, anyway 😉
So let your soup simmer, covered, on low, for at least an hour. We don’t want the soup to boil or bubble at all, really– maybe an occasional slow bubble. But nothing crazy or that gal will burn! Noooooo. We don’t want all our hard work to turn to charcoal! You might be able to convince guests that those black flecks in their food are vanilla bean when it’s dessert . . . but in soup, no vanilla. (Pepper? Never mind– sorry). 😉
And there you have it! Garnish each bowl with shredded cheese, bacon bits, and chives or green scallions, if you want. However you dress it, this beauty will be the belle of the chilly evening ball. When your family comes in from the outside with cold, runny noses and chilled fingers, you can warm them right up with a bowl of this liquid comfort. You can pair this with a homemade loaf of white bread
, or even buttermilk biscuits
. Add a green salad, and you have a complete meal.
And look at that! You just made soup out of nothing.
You did it. And I’m just so proud of you!
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