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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Creamy Potato Soup - Broke Food

I love a hot bowl of potato soup, especially considering how cold it's been lately.  Also, for me, this is comfort food.  When I was a kid and didn't feel well, my mom would make me a bowl of "tater soup."  It was a very soothing soup, especially if you have a stuffy nose or have the flu, and it's extremely easy to make in under an hour. 

As my recipes are prone to be, this is a simple one that can be gussied up or left plain in order to suit your taste, budget, and what you have in your pantry.  Also, as I'm prone to do, I don't follow any "rules" with regard to what is or isn't the right kind of potato to use.  I use what I have and make it work for what I need.  The soup pictured reflects that.  I used Yukon Gold for the soup photographed above.  Some might recommend a red potato or say not to use a white potato.  I believe in your food working for you, not having to go out and buy a bunch of fancy stuff in order to make a meal.  If the type of potato is a hard or very firm potato, slice it thinner and then cook longer, checking consistency of the potatoes while boiling until they're the right consistency.  After all, we're broke!  That's why we're making this soup!

The basic ingredients needed are potatoes, onions in some form (fresh or dried both work), some form of milk product, water, and salt and pepper.  The rest can be added to your taste, based on what you have.  I'm going to list the basic recipe, and then below I will list variations/additions that you may want to try.   The variation shown in the photo above includes:  Potatoes, onions, celery, chopped ham, evaporated milk, and butter. 

Creamy Potato Soup Basic Recipe
3-4 medium to large potatoes peeled and cut into small chunks (or one potato per person)
1 medium onion, minced (or equivalent dried minced onion)
Water to cover
2/3 to 3/4 cup milk, cream, half-and-half, canned evaporated milk, or powdered milk
Salt and Pepper to taste 
3-4 tablespoons butter or Margarine

In a large saucepan, place potatoes and onions.  Add just enough water to cover.  Place lid on sauce pan and bring to a rolling boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are soft. Scoop out about 1/2 cup of cooked, drained potatoes.  Mash these thoroughly, then return to the pot and stir in order to thicken the soup.  Turn fire back on under mixture and add milk and butter or margarine.  Heat until steaming, then add salt and pepper to taste. 

Note, if you use powdered milk you may want to only reconstitute it with half the water necessary in order to help the soup's consistency not be too thin. 

Meat:  Add any cooked meat that you may have such as leftover ham, cooked and crumbled bacon, grilled chicken, chopped turkey, cooked Spam, cooked hamburger meat, kielbasa, and even finely chopped leftover deli meat. 
Vegetables:  Celery, green onions, carrots, corn, chopped sauteed bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, or whatever is left in the fridge from prior meals. 
Broth:  If available, you may substitute chicken or vegetable broth for some of the water in this recipe.  
Cheese/Sour Cream:   If desired and available, you can either top the soup with cheese or stir in up to 1/2 cup finely shredded cheese of any type (stir well and do not boil if this is added) or sour cream to add richness and protein to the soup.  
Spices:  You may also add garlic, a small bit of red pepper flakes, rosemary, basil, marjoram, tarragon, or other spices (not all at once; choose wisely).

This is a taste-as-you-go recipe.  Start with the basic recipe, then add ingredients to your liking.  If you have doubts about how an ingredient will taste in the soup, remove a small amount of soup to a cup or bowl, add the ingredient, taste, and see how things are shaping up.  Once you get the recipe to your liking, write down your additions for use the next time.  

Serve with crusty bread, a salad, crackers, or Fry Bread.  This makes a very filling meal.  It keeps well and reheats well, so it's great to take in a lunch the next day or warm up for a quick meal. 

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