I came home from the store a week ago with one of those ten pound bags of Russet potatoes. My other half asked what exactly I was going to do with all those potatoes. The most I could muster was a mumbled “I don’t know” because I didn’t, actually, know. I had no plan. They were cheap and I was in a buying mood. So I made our poutine recipe one night, I made more bubble and squeak, because there’s no way to ever have enough bubble and squeak, and I still had some potatoes left. So what’s a guy to do. We were out the other day and a restaurant had a baked potato soup on special. I didn’t get it, but it did get me thinking. That sounds awfully good. I searched around a bit and found a few different takes on the soup itself; some are more broth with chunks of potato, some are more potato as soup thickener, there’s quite a variety then. So what to do.
I started with what looked like a good base and branched out into my usual not-quite-a-recipe world. The results were quite good and I’d venture we’d certainly have it again. My cook time was a bit longer if only because I was screwing around and didn’t have a firm direction. While I was at it I though, what better to go with a starch soup, then another starch. So cheddar biscuits became a good idea. I used my new food processor to make the dough. It was a learning process but I’m excited to report it makes a killer dough in no time at all – for biscuits at least.
For the soup I started with 3 medium to large-ish Russet potatoes. I’d love to tell you I baked them lovingly in the oven but the truth is I always microwave them. They come out great and it takes a quarter the time. Scrub them, oil them with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with salt, poke some holes in them with a fork, and microwave for 15 minutes in five minute bursts – flipping after every five minute interval.
While the potatoes are getting nuked you can start some bacon in pan. I usually go fairly low heat and let them fry up nice and crispy brown. Leave the oil behind and set them out on a paper towel to dry and crisp up. In the bacon fat left behind you can sautee the onion and garlic for a few minutes. I used a small to medium sized onion and one decent clove of garlic, chopped fairly fine. Let’s say about five or so minutes will work. Enough time for the onions to get a bit translucent. Don’t let the garlic brown though – it gets bitter and no one will like your soup if that happens.
I used some vegetable stock and some chicken stock, mainly because I had both in the fridge and they both had to be used up. Chicken stock probably makes more sense ultimately, but my soup was killer and I used more vegetable than chicken stock, so do as you see fit. I added three cups of stock to the onion mix and kept it over medium-low heat (around 4-ish on my electric range.) Don’t slosh the whole three cups in at once unless you’ve preheated the stock. I had mine boiling in a pot beforehand so I could toss it in willy-nilly. If you’ve not gone through the trouble just add a cup at a time and let it come back up to temperature before adding the next cup.
Add your spices at this point. Potatoes are notorious for needing salt. They very near seem to absorb every bit you can put in. So taste your broth often and don’t be afraid to add a bit more salt. I salted quite a few times. A bit of pepper, a few glugs of Tabasco, some dried basil, and you’re heading in the right direction.
About this time I took my potatoes out of the microwave. They were gorgeous, really. I tried to skin them a bit without burning my fingerprints off. If you like skin and the idea of potato skin in your soup – leave it on. I didn’t do a fantastic job of peeling on purpose, so I left a bit. Dice or chop or mush up the baked potato into the pan with the stock and keep over low to medium low heat – three is probably a good range on an electric stove top, but again your mileage may vary. I let this cook for a bit before I went any further. This is a good stage to add the flour. How do you do this without it clumping up into little flour balls in your soup? Roll the flour into a tablespoon or two of butter. It makes a little butter/flour thickening bomb. Just drop it into the soup. The fat from the butter traps the flour and carries it into the soup without clumping up. Moms are great for neat tricks and tips like that. So let’s all say thanks to my mom for that. Thanks mom!
You’ll need to decide how thick and how creamy you want your soup. I added a cup of milk – and 1% at that – and then realized that going with some cream probably would have been a better idea. So I let it cook down a bit and I added 1/4 cup of cream. No harm done. I used a whisk to stir things up and break down more of the potato to thicken up the mix. Great except that I was lacking the big chunks of potato that I had initially wanted in the soup. So what’s a boy to do? Luckily I had these twee little red potatoes hanging about. I put a handful into the microwave for about five minutes until they were tender, cut them in half, and dumped them straight into the soup right before serving. Problem solved.
I checked my seasoning again, added a bit more salt, and then ladled into my soup bowls. I had cut up the bacon into little bits of bacon goodness while I had a free minute, and those were liberally spread across the top. You could add a bit of shredded cheddar across the top as well, but I didn’t go there, mostly out of laziness and the fact that I’d quickly put together some cheddar biscuits.
Ah the biscuits. If you’re good you can make these in the food processor quickly. Quickly enough that the 15 minutes to bake them will elapse while the rest of the soup is coming together. I had mine timed almost perfectly which is certainly not a normal thing for me. Usually I’m always waiting for one aspect or another to come together while desperately trying to keep another warm. Clearly a win for me today, if only by accident.
So how to go about the biscuits? Quickly and easily. If you use a food processor it goes together mighty easily. I started with a recipe that I originally got from the Food Network but can no longer find the link. I changed it around a bit anyway, but it would be nice to point you in the right direction, if only I could find my notes. I’ll update some day when I actually can find the original. Sorry guys.
This should yield somewhere around 9 biscuits – and decent sized ones at that. Eating more than two with this soup will turn you into a pillar of starch. In your trusty food processor start with 1 and 3/4 cup AP flour, 1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons baking powder, 3 teaspoons sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt. Pulse a few times to get things mixed. Add three tablespoons of vegetable shortening (at room temperature preferably) and pulse again to mix. Add 4 tablespoons of butter (cold – right out of the fridge) and pulse again until it’s mixed. It should look clumpy at this point. Add about a cup and a half of grated cheddar. The stuff from the store pre-grated works great. I used a combination of some wacky pepper infused cheddar we got at the farmer’s market, and some left-over Fontina. Life is good. Add the cheese and 3/4 cup of milk. Pulse again until things are well mixed. You should end up with a clumpy wet pile of dough stuck to the side of the container. Remove and give a few quick kneads with your hands to combine.
I used a cookie sheet with some parchment paper spread out and sprayed a quick layer of non-stick spray down just to be careful they didn’t stick. I used a 1/4 cup measuring cup to make a nine neat little piles on the cookie sheet and into a preheated 425 degree F oven they went. 15 minutes later on the nose they came out lightly brown and cheesy. I mixed four tablespoons of melted butter, some garlic powder, onion powder, and a little Old Bay seasoning in a bowl and brushed the tops with it. Nice!
So the finished product was nice and thick, potato-y, with nice chunks of potato floating around. The biscuits were a nice complement, if a bit heavy on the starch overall. Nothing wrong with that, however. I like me some starch.
For a big bowl of soup for two people and enough biscuits to last well beyond that (they keep well in the freezer or the fridge) you’ll need the following:
- 4 Strips of Bacon – Cooked and Diced
- 1 Small to Medium Onion (Or Shallots) – Diced
- 1 Clove of Garlic – Diced
- 2 to 3 Tablespoons of AP Flour – Rolled into 1 Tablespoon Butter
- 1 Teaspoon Salt – Maybe More – It’s all to taste
- 1 Teaspoon Dried Basil
- 1 Teaspoon Pepper – Freshly Ground Please!
- 3 Cups Broth (Chicken or Vegetable)
- 2-3 Large Russets – Baked, Peeled, and Cut Up In Some Form
- 1 Cup of Milk (or Half & Half – if you’re feeling saucy)
- 1/2 Teaspoon Tabasco
- A Handful of Small Yukon Or Red Potatoes – Cooked and Halved
- 1 3/4 Cups AP
- 1 Tablespoon and 2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
- 3 Teaspoons Sugar
- 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
- 3 Tablespoons Vegetable Shortening (At Room Temperature)
- 4 Tablespoons Butter – Cold and Cut Into Small Chunks
- 1 and 1/2 Cups Grated Cheddar or Similar Cheese
- 3/4 Cup Milk
- 3 Tablespoons Butter
- 1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1 Teaspoon Onion Powder
- 1/2 Teaspoon Dried Oregano or Basil