One of the few soups my mother made from scratch was potato soup. My mom makes really good potato soup. We often had it for dinner. And why wouldn’t we? Potatoes were relatively inexpensive, especially since we always grew them in our garden. Onions and celery, the other ingredients in her version, were also inexpensive. With crackers crumbled into our bowls of soup, a pot of potato soup could last a couple of meals.
My mom’s version of potato soup was really basic: potatoes, onion, celery, water, salt, pepper, and milk. After all, my dad liked things simple, and you can’t get much simpler than my mom’s potato soup. And she made it the same way every time. My soup contains the same basic ingredients, but I have several versions. Which one I make depends on my mood but most important, on what I have on hand. Here’s the mise en place for last night’s potato soup.
I used baking potatoes because that’s what I had on hand. Actually, they are my preference for potato soup, as they break down easily. But any potato will work. Use what you have on hand and like. I’ve even seen recipes that use instant potatoes or leftover mashed potatoes. I’ve not tried those, though.
Regular readers of the Soup’s On! series know I’m a firm believer in using stock, especially chicken stock, in my soups. I often use it in my potato soups, but occasionally I go for the water, especially when I’m adding flavorful ingredients. This was one of those times. I’d be adding half and half, so I opted for water. Along the same line, I wanted an onion-like flavor, but I didn’t want a strong onion flavor. So this time I used shallots. But if you prefer onion, by all means use it. The most important thing is to use ingredients you enjoy.
Perhaps the thing that most sets my version of potato soup apart from my mother’s is my use of cream cheese. Yes, you read that right, cream cheese. My mother doesn’t like cream cheese, so there is no way she’d add it to a soup. I, on the other hand, adore cream cheese. It adds a tang to the flavor profile and adds to the creaminess of the finished soup. My mother also used skim milk, and I choose to use half and half, if I have it on hand. If I don’t, I use regular milk. You can also use 1 percent or 2 percent, but I recommend staying away from nonfat milk.
When using cream cheese or other dairy products in a dish such as potato soup, it is important they are at room temperature. For milk or cream, I usually let it set out about an hour; that seems to be sufficient. I’ve found butter and cream cheese take longer. If I’m going to be using them in the morning, I take them out of the refrigerator the night before. If I’m using them for dinner, I get them out first thing in the morning. Of course, you’ll need to adjust based on the temperature in your kitchen. Mine tends to be a refrigerator, so I need the extra time, especially in the winter. I do make adjustments in the summer.
Here’s my finished soup.
I’ve topped mine with snipped chives. You can also top with scallions or rye croutons. This soup can also be served chilled, in which case I like to top with fresh dill.
Here’s the recipe. Enjoy!© Copyright 2012 Ida Walker, All rights Reserved. Written For: The Enabling Cook