If you follow the produce we get in our weekly share (and if not, you should), you’ll have noticed that potatoes show up on a regular basis. And onions. A lot. Fortunately, they both keep well, and, of course, they’re both really versatile, appearing in many dishes. But, we’d had trouble keeping up with the ‘taters & onions, and knew we had to start making a dent in our overflowing shelf (potatoes were dropping off the shelf every time we took take out the tin of granola for breakfast). It was time to start using them.
Now, we could have used a lot of potatoes all at once in a gratin, or even made oven fries, but neither of these uses a lot of onions (they were overflowing from our official onion bowl). So, we went with perhaps that simplest of all potato dishes, potato soup.
We looked at the recipe for potato leek soup in Julia Child’s The Way to Cook. It was a study in simplicity; she referred to it as a “master recipe,” meaning one that you should master because the resulting soup could be used in a bunch of different ways. Naturally, we used her recipe for inspiration (which is really something she seemed to favor, anyway) and came up with this version that you can use for inspiration.
If possible, choose a mild and sweet variety of onion. If you have leeks, so much the better; use them. Slice the onions as thinly as you can. Really, really thin. Think of this as training for being a chef, and see if you can get them paper-thin. Not all? But some, we bet. Same with us; knife skills always need practice. For the potatoes, we peeled them, mainly so we wouldn’t have peels floating around in the soup. No other reason. Now, you could use a mild broth instead of the water, but you really don’t need to. For the cream, we check the ingredient list on the carton. If it contains something other than cream, we don’t bother buying it.
Procedure in detail:
Cook onions. Use a heavy-bottomed saucepan or soup pan over low heat and cook the onions. Cook ’em more. More. Let them cook in that butter until they’re tender and have caramelized to bring out the flavor. Ours took over 30 minutes, but we waited and stirred occasionally.
Add potatoes. Now that the onions are nice and brown, add the diced potatoes, water, and salt. The original recipe called for 6-7 cups water, but the soup turned out thinner than we wanted, so we adjusted the water to the amount listed above. If you want an even thicker soup, you could reduce the amount of water even more — but, be careful so you don’t end up with mashed potatoes.
Simmer. Simmer uncovered until the potatoes are very tender, about 30 minutes. You want the potatoes just at the point where they start to fall apart on their own; it’ll make it easy to mash them into the broth in the next step.
Mash potatoes. Remove the soup from the heat, and, using a potato masher, mash up some of the potato cubes. You could mash them all, but we like to leave a few small pieces of potato in the broth. You could also blend them using a blender or a food processor. We thought about that, but then decided that a potato masher would be easier to clean.
Whisk in cream. Whisk the soup while you slowly drizzle in the heavy cream and make for a creamy potato soup. If you want, and we did want, you can save just a bit of cream to drizzle into the bowls of soup after serving.
Serve. Ladle into bowls, drizzle with about a teaspoon more cream, and then top with a few croutons. We made up thyme croutons, which paired very well with potatoes, but you could use rosemary croutons, too.
We had this for dinner, and, other than it being a bit too thin for our tastes (we adjusted the amount of water in the recipe above to reflect that), it was delicious. We each went through two bowls of soup with the croutons in no time flat. Plus, we had soup left over for the next day’s lunch. We’re planning to top that with just a bit of English Stilton cheese. Yum. So, from four potatoes, a bit of onion, and some cream, we got two really tasty meals. Julia was right; this is definitely a recipe that everyone should master. Five stars, because it makes a great meal with the bare minimum of ingredients.