Saturday, November 10, 2012

Creamy Potato Soup

You know those nights, when you've planned out a complex, delicious dinner, and then your kid needs to be rushed to the clinic with major ear pain? Yeah, me too! The hubby has been working on the sauce for lasagna since yesterday, and the whole house smells incredible. Then last night, just as he was about to start making the noodles and put it all together, sis called to explain the girl child was experiencing some ear pain and liquid draining. I got an appointment for her, and they went rushing off while I was left holding the dinner bag.

My secret ingredient
What do you do when you're trying to eat well and healthily when your planned meal doesn't happen? I turn to soups, because they can be done very quickly if you have some pre-made broth or organic bouillon cubes. With an hour and a bit of patience, you can turn out a gourmet soup that will impress family and friends and that takes very little effort. Most soups start with a basic stock, and some combination of onion, carrot, celery and potato. If you keep those five ingredients on hand, you'll have a quick supper whenever you need it.

Browning sausage
Since I was stuck at home with no vehicle, no money to pick something up, and no meat defrosted, I was limited in my choices. I decided to make some potato soup, but with a bit of flair to it just because I could. The result was a creamy, delicious soup that was thick enough to stand a spoon up in. We served it with grilled cheese sandwiches, although a crusty french bread or some warm biscuits would have worked as well.

  • 10 cups of broth (or 10 cups of water and bouillon cubes/powder)
  • 8 potatoes, in small cubes
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 1 stalk of celery, finely diced
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 lb ground sausage
  • 1/2 to 2 cups dehydrated flaked potatoes
  • 1/2 cup of half-and-half, cream, or milk
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
Dicing the potatoes
In a soup pot, add your broth or water and bouillon, and bring to a boil. The potatoes should be fairly small, about the size of dice, and you can leave the skin on as I did, or peel them, depending on your taste. Add in your potatoes and allow them to cook for about ten minutes while you prepare the other vegetables. Dice up your onion, carrot and celery finely, so that the pieces are about the size of a pencil eraser. Add the carrot and celery to the potatoes in the pot, and continue cooking until the potatoes are softened.

Garlic in the mincer
In a separate pan, brown your ground sausage. I used a Jimmy Dean style (but organic and local) sausage, but you could also use any other ground sausage you happen to like. Alternatively, you might try cooked pork loin, in small pieces. Once the meat is cooked, use a slotted spoon to set it aside in a bowl. In the remaining grease, cook up your onions until they are soft and beginning to become clear. Add these to the pot as well.

When the potatoes have become quite soft, use a potato masher to squish them up. The idea is to make the soup a bit thicker (it will be fairly brothy at this point), and not to completely mash the potatoes. Our family prefers a potato soup with chunky bits in it, but if you like a smooth soup, you may want to run it through your food processor or blender before moving on.

Sausage and parsley added
Once your potatoes are the way you want them, add in a half cup of potato flakes at a time until the soup is the right consistency for you. I added about 1.5 cups of potato flakes, but we do like a very thick soup. Let it simmer for about five minutes, then add the cream and the parsley, and stir well. Continue to stir and simmer for another five minutes, then serve hot, right out of the pot.

All ready to serve
This soup is incredibly filling. The flavor is quite nice! I didn't have any broth on hand, so I cheated with some Goya bouillon that we'd picked up on sale. It does have MSG in it, but that's it's only objectionable ingredient (for us... your mileage may vary). It has a delicate flavor that really started us off right, without being too salty or thick. I like a light broth to start any soup with, and often can my own chicken broth from left-over carcasses.

Because of the bouillon, the soup had a slightly pinkish tinge to it (the bouillon was tomato and chicken flavor, though you cannot taste the tomato at all) which made it quite pretty to look at. The tiny bits of vegetable swirled around in the creamy base, and the chunks of potato and skin gave it a good body. The sausage I used is a real favorite in our house, and I found it was the perfect foil for the slightly starchy potato base.

What is your favorite go-to meal for when you're in a rush? Do you have any secret ingredients that you keep on hand?

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