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Recipe Book: Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Comfort food to get you through what's left of winter.

As the days are damp, cloudy and cold, there is nothing better than coming home to the bacon and sour-creamy goodness of a piping hot bowl of Loaded Baked Potato Soup.

Just as the name describes, this recipe is simply loaded with cheese, bacon, sour cream and onions, and starts with fluffy baked Russet potatoes. (Get out the elastic waist-band sweat pants after you dish out this soup, as it is a real calorie-buster.)

Better yet, this soup improves when made and allowed to chill overnight. The flavors mesh very well in the dark chill of the refrigerator, so when it reheats, it is simply sensational in taste. Top it with another dollop of sour cream, green onions, crumbled bacon and leftover shredded white cheddar cheese and be prepared for guests to ask for seconds. (I serve this with a crisp romaine lettuce salad and warm French bread.)

The best baked potatoes (to serve with a steak or a roast) are baked potatoes with a salted skin. They are very easy and are a company favorite because the skins are almost as tasty as the fluffy insides. We also like to set up a “baked potato bar” when we have company for lunch on weekends, with our favorite toppings (chili, salsa, nacho cheese, steamed broccoli, sour cream, shredded cheese and lots of bacon bits).

 

Loaded Baked Potato Soup
8 large Russet potatoes, baked
1 lb. thick-sliced bacon
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 Tbsp. butter, cut into 8 pieces
4 cups chicken broth
2 medium onions, diced fine
3 Tbsp. flour
2 cups half and half
2 cups whole milk
2 cups sharp white cheddar cheese, plus extra for topping
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. cayenne
1 pint sour cream, reserve a bit for toppings
1/2 cup chopped green onions (for toppings) 

This recipe is best when made a day in advance, as you will read below.

Bake potatoes and let cool. Dice four of the baked potatoes into small, bite size pieces, skins and all. For the remaining four potatoes, scoop out the flesh and mash until smooth. Discard the skins of these potatoes. Add both milk and half and half to this potato mixture that should be put in a large, nonstick soup kettle.

In a large nonstick skillet, fry the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and let cool slightly. Crumble into small pieces when cool enough to handle and add to the potatoes (reserve a bit for toppings). Add the onions and garlic to the bacon fat and sauté until soft. Remove with a slotted spoon and add to the potato mixture.

Add the butter to the bacon fat still in the skillet, and stir until melted. Add 3 Tbsp. of flour to this and start to use a whisk to incorporate the flour and butter over medium heat. Add the chicken broth gradually, and bring to a gentle boil, whisking constantly. Be sure to scrape the bottom when this is cooking.

When this starts to thicken, remove from the heat and add this over into the mashed potato mixture. Stir and heat the soup thoroughly, but do not boil. Add the cheese (reserve a bit for toppings) and stir to melt. Add salt and pepper to taste as well as they cayenne. Remove from heat and add sour cream.

This soup dramatically improves in flavor when allowed to chill (covered) in the refrigerator overnight at this point. Add a bit more milk if it is too thick. Reheat and ladle soup into individual bowls and top with a dollop of sour cream, the reserved crumbled bacon, extra cheese (if desired) and green onions.

 

Restaurant-Style Baked Russet Potatoes

Wash large Russet baking potatoes and dry them thoroughly. Prick the outsides 8 to 10 times with a fork. Coat the outsides with 1/2 tsp. vegetable oil, and place them into large bowl and shake them vigorously with Kosher salt until the outsides are moderately coated (you can over-do this step with too much salt).

Bake at 350 degrees in an oven until the potatoes are done (about one hour).  When potatoes are hot and fresh from the oven, serve by creating a dotted line from end to end with your fork, then crack the spud open by squeezing the ends towards one another. It will pop right open.  We always bake extra potatoes in this step to make the soup for later in the week.

 

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