My original idea was to make potato leek soup, a favorite at our house, but I forgot to purchase leeks. Key ingredient, so I was kind of stuck, and I had potatoes I needed to use up. What to use instead, why, bacon, of course ! We still have some of the amazing bacon from the pig we butchered earlier in the year, and it seems a potato bacon soup would be really good, but what could I do to make it even better ?
Then I thought about when I go out to eat, and they make that offer to "load" your baked potato. I always take it, don't you ? Who doesn't love that combination of bacon, sour cream, and onions ? To get that to translate to my soup, I first pre-baked my potatoes, then scooped out the insides, and put the skins back in the oven, so they would be nice and crispy. I wanted these as a garnish for my finished soup, to give it that real "baked potato" flavor.
Don't they look awesome? It was all I could do to stop myself from snacking on these all day ! The next step was to fry up some crispy bacon, which I saved for toppings, and used the fat to saute the onions and garlic.
Well, you get the idea. I wanted the soup to be rich, and creamy, and then you could load it up with as much and as many toppings as you wanted, just like a baked potato. This was definitely a success !
Loaded Baked Potato Soup
3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 pound bacon, cut into bite sized pieces
1 large yellow onion, diced finely
4 cloves garlic, diced
3 tablespoons flour
1 quart pork or chicken stock
3 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 cup milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (save 1/2 cup for garnish)
Chopped green onion, for garnish
Sour cream, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350. Lightly coat potatoes with oil and salt, and place on baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes to an hour until tender, then cut in half and let cool. Scoop out insides, leave skins in tact as much as possible. Return skins to the baking sheet, increase oven temperature to 400 and bake an addditional 20-25 minutes until skins are brown and crispy. Remove from oven.
In a large stock pot, brown bacon until crispy. Remove bacon to a paper towel to drain, saving for a garnish for later. Keep bacon fat on medium low heat, and add onions and garlic. Saute until tender. Add flour and stir until combined, about 2-3 minutes. Add stock and water, and stir until boiling. Reduce to a simmer. Cube potatoes, and add to stock and water mixture. Simmer 30 minutes, until potatoes are very soft, then puree using an immersion blender. Stir in milk and shredded cheese, and remove from heat.
Dish up the soup in bowls, and garnish as you like !