This is the time of year (I don’t know about where you are, but it turned frigid and howling-windy here yesterday) when I just love to make soup, and it’s also the time of year when I can get plenty of potatoes. Who doesn’t love a good, creamy potato soup on a cold day? I used red potatoes when I made this last night, because that’s what I had, but you can actually use any kind of potato (even sweet potatoes are good). I like simple recipes (and by simple, I mean simple, not something that claims to be simple and then requires you to find some obscure ingredient or to mince seven different types of vegetables before cracking open a coconut to get both its milk and its meat), and this one is incredibly so, because basically all you do is cut up a bunch of things, throw them in water, heat them, forget about them for a while, and then purée them. The worst part (for me) is peeling the potatoes (does anyone else find that they often drop potatoes while trying to peel them?)
If you’re the sort of person who’s worried about things like glycemic indexes and saturated fat, this isn’t the recipe for you. It is vegetarian, though (not vegan, however), and if you’re concerned about gluten, this is a gluten-free recipe (I know a lot of potato soup recipes I’ve found call for flour, but I’ve found I don’t need that). I’m not someone who tends to eat heavy meals, so having this with a nice salad that includes nuts and cheese to add a little protein is enough for me. Others might want to have a salad and some sort of whole grain (preferably homemade) bread with it.
If you decide to try it, I’d love to get feedback from you.
Creamy Red Potato Soup
2 T butter (divided)
One large white onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and halved
8 cups water
2 lb red potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 celery stalks, including leaves, cut up
2 T sea salt
1/2 cup half and half
Garnish of choice
Melt 1 T of butter in large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until both are soft and golden. Add the water, potatoes, celery, the other T of butter, and salt. Stir to mix well. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Decrease heat to medium low (it’s medium low on my stove. Your burner might heat a little hotter than mine and need to be put on low to keep a steady simmer going, so you may need to experiment a bit), bring to a simmer, and cover.
At this point you can go off to do whatever you want for at least an hour, leaving it unattended. I’ve been known to let it simmer for as long as 3 hours with no ill effects, so you know, go finish that book, write a blog post, workout, watch a couple of reruns of Frasier, or enjoy a few cocktails with a friend. Then, turn it off, take it off that burner, and let it cool down.
Once it’s cool, purée it until it’s thick and smooth. I use an immersion blender, but you can also purée it in batches in a food processor or blender. I hate puréeing soups in blenders and food processors, because I always seem to spill some or become impatient, not letting it cool long enough, so it’s too hot and explodes. Also, it creates more dishes to do. But if you’re less clumsy than I, or have the patience of Job, or love doing dishes — or you just don’t happen to have an immersion blender, which I didn’t until my lovely husband bought me one a few years ago — by all means, purée it in your blender or food processor.
Return it to the burner on medium heat and slowly add the half and half. Heat and whisk until it’s heated through. Make sure it doesn’t boil, or you’ll have a curdled mess.
Last night, I garnished mine with cilantro and freshly ground pepper. However, I know that many people in this world hate cilantro. I’m also a rosemary, thyme, and parsley lover (sorry, Simon and Garfunkel, no sage), so I’ve been known to garnish it with these herbs when I have them. The only thing I’d say is that you want to use fresh, not dried herbs for real flavor. You could also put a dollop of yogurt or sour cream and some chopped chives or scallions. Grated parmesan is yummy, too. Really, just about anything that strikes your fancy will work. After all, you’re the one eating it, so use what you like best.
Note: You can make this soup in warmer weather, refrigerate it, and serve it cold. Then you don’t have to worry about the half and half curdling (and, really, the less worrying, the better, right?), because you just purée and swirl in the cream without reheating.