My friends, I have needed some soul succour this week. What a cold. What a cold. It kept whipping out new and horrific symptoms like angry rabbits out of hats, just as the old ones died down. And all the rabbits wanted to claw at my face. I’ve had two days of normalcy – which means I got out of bed, dressed and consumed more food than flu medicine – and I’m still writing this to drown out my sore throat. ENOUGH.
In these circumstances, what you need is a king of meals. And this is a king among meals: a loaded baked potato soup recipe I got from my mama. If soups were people, this would be the Incredible Hulk. I was going to put it in my Meals for Not Much series, but it fails all three of my usual conditions for recipes, gloriously. It is not especially quick. It does not have an ingredients list I can count on half a hand. It is hysterically calorific. But it will make you happy, I promise you. Angels will start singing in your ear. Imagine careening down a giant slide and landing in a great pile of buttery, creamy, bacony, potatoey goodness. Oh, Americans. Oreos, and now this?
Here’s the recipe. I’ve added more English-friendly measurements where I’ve needed them.
6 medium potatoes – 1.5 lbs ish (I used 5 today, and it was plenty)
6 slices of bacon, chopped
1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted butter
1.5 cups (about 1.5 large, or 2 small) diced onion
1/2 cup (1 stalk) diced celery
2 tsp minced garlic (never use this much, unless you want a special nickname from your friends. I use 2 cloves, chopped)
3/4 cup plain flour
5 cups (1 litre) chicken stock
1.5 cups milk
1.5 cups half-and-half (I use cream. Double cream, today. In for a penny, right?)
6 turns of the pepper grinder
1/2 tsp Cajun spice
1/3 cup sour cream
1.5 cups (90g ish) grated cheese
1/8 cup sliced green/spring onions (this is only a couple of fingerfuls)
How much of this you need to buy will depend on the type of household you live in. Personally I usually have the potatoes and twelve different types of dairy covered, so I go out and buy the veg. I hope you’re the opposite.
1. Bake the potatoes. Blah, I know. I do them two at a time in the microwave for 5 mins each, then put them in the oven to finish off while I get on with the rest of it. You can also boil the potatoes, but it doesn’t work quite as well.
2. Cook chopped bacon in a soup pot until tender, but not crisp.
3. Add butter and melt. Realise you’re frying bacon in butter and feel good about your life.
4. Add onion and celery and saute for 4 minutes or until softened.
5. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.
6. Sprinkle in flour a little at a time, stirring constantly. It makes a weird kind of bacony paste. I contemplated having it in sandwiches. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
7. Bring the heat up, and add the chicken stock a little at a time. Chicken stock stumped me until they started selling these little concentrated stock pots at the supermarket. You add one to 500ml water, et voila. No chicken carcass required. As you add it, the paste absorbs the liquid and it gets creamy and smooth. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
8. Take out potatoes, slice in half and chop the insides into cubes. Stir in milk, cream (half and half), pepper, Cajun seasoning, and potatoes. You can also add here, if you want, a bit of hot sauce, and salt if it needs it (it won’t).
9. Increase heat to just under a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for a further 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
10. I bet you thought we were done, didn’t you? No. Silly you. You haven’t added enough dairy yet.
11. Get the sour cream, green/spring onions and MASSIVE HANDFULS OF CHEESE and chuck it all in. Cackle a little. Heat for just a while, until the cheese has melted.
12. Garnish with sour cream, cheese, spring onions or crumbled bacon, if you must.
The best thing about this – apart from the obvious – is that it makes tons. Henry and I had it for lunch, then dinner, and there’s still a portion in the fridge and three double portions in the freezer. So, I suppose, spread over five days it’s quite cheap.
As you may have gathered, this is not for every day. Your arteries will cry. I make it when I am sad, or ill, or think Henry’s had a calorie-sparse week (he loves it). And it makes everything better. Some food can do that. Bacon does it best.