Friday, January 4, 2013

"Thinned Out" Baked Potato Soup

Hello, y'all! It's been awhile since I've written any new posts. The last few months have been a little on the busy side with my new job (yay! More on that later...) and traveling back home to Kansas for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We were able to welcome Chris' brother home from Afghanistan and enjoyed a visit from Chris' mother and niece. So as you can probably guess, blogging was not exactly on my list of things to get done!

A week or so ago, after the dust had settled, it was back to the usual "what's for dinner" conundrum. The fridge was needing to be restocked, but neither of us felt like going to the store. We had leftover bacon from breakfast sandwiches and a bag of potatoes....and we had almost the whole afternoon ahead of us. The first thing that came to mind was Baked Potato Soup. My momma always used this yummy recipe that was rich and indulgent, almost like eating a savory dessert! I had just had a conversation with a friend who said she has yet to find a good baked potato soup recipe that didn't have such a thick, creamy texture. So, I decided to modify the recipe that I know and love into a much lighter dish!

I started by baking 6 potatoes. You can use any potato that you have, really. I think russets work best, but I had some sort of "jumbo" red potato. The texture is different - they won't be as fluffy after baking them. Which I think will be a positive thing, seeing as how the goal for this dish is to be more smooth instead of that lumpy, graininess that a baked potato soup usually has.

Anyway, I washed them, poked them with a fork to avoid exploding potatoes, wrapped them in foil, and baked for about 1 hour at 400 degrees. Once they are done (they should give a little when you squeeze them), carefully unwrap them and slice in half to help them cool faster to make them easier to handle. Spoon out the potato, unless you don't mind the skin, in which case you could just mash them all up with a fork.

Meanwhile, in a large pot, heat some chicken stock and SKIM milk on medium low. Now I say "some" because I did my usual approach of not measuring. The original recipe calls for an insane amount of WHOLE milk and NO stock at all, so I probably did equal parts milk and stock. I would say at least 2 cups of each. Maybe a little more stock. The beauty of stovetop cooking is that you can modify it as you go. The skim milk is important for this recipe because it keeps the liquid very thin, like a broth, and not a cream. If you are finding that this is not enough liquid for the amount of potatoes and/or people you are serving, just add more broth.

Once it is warmed up, you can turn the heat up to medium. I then remembered that the original recipe starts by making a roux, which is a butter and flour mixture that you cook for a few minutes before adding the milk. So I decided to just throw in a few tablespoons of butter and a tablespoon or two of flour. And then I decided to throw in a bay leaf.* I never use those, so I thought, why not?

Then I stirred the mixture around for a bit to incorporate the flour and butter.

I recruited my husband to get the bacon ready. I really hate cooking bacon. It splatters, it's greasy, it smells up your whole house and the clothes you are wearing, and sometimes that bacon fat pops and burns your skin. I decided to bake it instead of fry it up on the stove. It worked very well; I was able to get the crispy bacon that is perfect for crumbling. We put it in along with the potatoes while they were baking. We used one if those double pans with the drip holes along the sides for draining the fat - whatever that pan is called!

I would highly recommend using microwave bacon. Less time, less mess, less drippings, less "eau de bacon" stink, and it is so easy to crumble. Works like a charm every time.

Once the stock and milk mixture is heated through and a little bubbly, reduce the heat back to medium low and add about 8 ounces of plain Greek yogurt. The original recipe calls for sour cream, so I thought the Greek yogurt would be a good substitute. You want to keep the heat below medium after adding the yogurt to avoid curdling it. I barely had any shredded cheese left in the refrigerator; I used a combination of mild cheddar and mozzarella, totaling about 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup. If I had more, I would have added it!

Stir again to mix and warm the yogurt and cheese. Once your bacon has been crumbled and potato pulp mashed, add those to the pot as well. Stir and bring back to heat if the potatoes got cold, and enjoy!

*Don't forget to take the bay leaf out!

It still has great flavor without the thickness of most baked potato soups I've had. It still looks fairly thick in this photo, but it still has a smooth, thin broth. Enjoy, friends! :)

"Thinned Out" Baked Potato Soup

6 medium to large potatoes, washed, poked, and wrapped in foil

2-4 cups chicken broth*
2-4 cups SKIM milk*
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
8 oz. plain Greek yogurt
bay leaf, optional
1 cup mild shredded cheddar cheese
1 pkg cooked, crumbled bacon

Start by baking the potatoes for 1 hour at 400 degrees.
Meanwhile, in a large pot, heat 2 cups EACH of chicken broth and milk on medium-low heat.
Add bay leaf.
Add butter and flour.
Turn heat up to medium and stir occasionally until mixture is heated through and bubbling slightly.
*If you would like more liquid, add more milk and broth, depending the ratio of potato to liquid you desire.
Add Greek yogurt and stir to combine.
Turn heat down to medium-low.
Scoop out the pulp from the potatoes, ensuring that it is in bite-sized pieces or smaller.
Add potato pulp to the pot.
Stir in cheese and bacon.
Remove bay leaf!
Bring up to temperature if necessary; serve hot!

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