I’ve always been one to think that Thanksgiving deserves is own un-interrupted holiday attention. We shouldn’t be decorating our trees before Thanksgiving or putting out lights. We shouldn’t be playing Christmas music or baking Christmas treats or watching Christmas music. Thanksgiving should get its own attention, its own aisle of decorations in the store (really Target? what am I supposed to do about seasonal decor between Halloween and Christmas? where is Thanksgiving?). We should be all about harvest and pilgrims and autumn until after the holiday.
But this year? Oh I am just ready for Christmas everything. I’ve been making Christmas lists (for myself and for others) and picking out wrapping paper and thinking about my baking lists. I’m ready to put holiday parties on the calendar and plan an afternoon to unload the contents of our Christmas decoration boxes all over the house. And while the rest of the world is complaining about Christmas commercials and stores putting out decorations, for some reason, this year, when I walked into Home Depot before Halloween and saw a whole section of Christmas trees and stockings and ornaments, my thoughts were exactly this: “CHRISTMAS!!!” I didn’t even care that it was the end of September.
Perhaps I can blame this soup which I made for our tailgate a few weeks ago? Baked potato soup is the one and only Christmas Eve tradition that my family holds (and really, it’s only been happening for a handful of years, so it’s relatively new). We are all about Christmas Day traditions: morning present opening and family brunch and a dinner of leftovers and peanut butter balls with friends. But Christmas Eve has never been a huge focus for my family. We’re content with just this soup. The soup that convinced me that maybe all soups aren’t all that bad.
There are a lot of recipes around for baked potato soup. I like to start mine with a bechamel sauce (which, by the way, I think I’m learning the secret of: much higher heat than Ina Garten tells you). I like to add just enough milk to thin it slightly, but I still like my soup to be thick and heavy feeling. There is bacon in the recipe, but I like to serve the bacon on the side so that people can add as much as they like, or leave it out as I do.
For a picky eater, there is almost nothing to not like about this soup. It is basically baked potatoes with enough milk added to give it soup consistency. Nothing fancy, nothing difficult. It is just purely comforting.
Baked Potato Soup
Bake Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Wait Time: 30 minutes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
4 large baking potatoes
8-12 slices bacon
2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
4-6 cups milk*
1 1/4 cup cheddar cheese, grated
8 oz. sour cream
1. Begin by baking the potatoes. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place potatoes on the oven rack and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes, until they are slightly tender when you squeeze the center of them. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 20 to 30 minutes.
2. While the potatoes are cooling, cook the bacon. Cook in a large skillet over medium-high heat until brown and slightly crispy, about 3-5 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and let cool, then chop into 1/2 inch pieces. Set aside.
2. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop the pulp out of them and into a large bowl. Be careful not to include any tougher parts of potato, such as the parts that are a little too close to the skin (you want it all to be easily mash-able).
3. In a medium-sized pot, or in a heat-proof bowl or measuring cup in the microwave, heat the milk until it is slightly warm. Set aside.
4. In a large stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat. Then add the flour and cook for one minute, whisking constantly. Gradually add the milk and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick and bubbly.
5. Add the potato pulp to the mixture, as well as a large pinch of salt and pepper, 1 cup cheese, and 1/2 the bacon (or save all the bacon to be served on the side later). Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes until the soup is your desired consistency. Cook until thoroughly heated, about 15 to 20 minutes. Then stir in the sour cream (and extra milk if you’d like the soup to be thinner). Taste for seasonings and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
6. Serve the soup warm with the rest of the bacon and cheese on the side.
*Use the amount of milk you want to make the soup thinner or thicker. And be careful when doubling the recipe: I often use 6 cups when making the recipe as is, but when I doubled it I felt that 8 was enough.