To begin. . . I have no intention of ever becoming a food blogger.
Sometimes I realize I make some pretty good food stuffs and it is selfish of me not to share.
The weather is disgusting today in the high desert. It’s all rainy and dark and gloomy . . .
It’s a soup day.
I prefer thick, rustic soups with lots of bits and pieces. I don’t hate a good bowl of Campbell’s creamy tomato but it’s definitely better with a cheese sandwich to dunk in it (coincidentally, tomato soup and a toasted cheese is just deconstructed pizza—think about it for a minute; I’ll wait) but I like soup better with it has texture. To that end, one of my favorites is loaded baked potato soup.
I grew up on potato soup made with ham and milk so when I had a broth based potato soup in my mid 20s, I was severely disappointed. Like, I KNEW that was a thing but I had grown so accustomed to what is probably potato chowder, technically, this thin, watery business wasn’t cutting it.
Over the years, I have developed my own sort of recipe for this baked potato chowder whatsit. It’s incredibly simple and I make it even simpler by employing the microwave but you can make it all on the stove if you prefer.
one medium potato (per person/serving)
pre-cooked ham or bacon (real ham, not “lunch meat” slices)
2 tablespoons butter (divided)
1 cup milk (more as needed)
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup mixture of shredded cheddar and Swiss cheeses, and grated Parmesan
Salt, pepper, garlic, paprika to taste
Start with one medium potato per person.
What is a medium potato, you ask? Well, it’s a little arbitrary but my measurement is a medium potato is roughly the size of my hand. I can hold two small potatoes in one hand, one medium potato, and a “large” potato is larger than what I can contain completely in my hand. See? Arbitrary.
One medium potato per person.
Peel the potato, or don’t, it’s your choice. I prefer to peel them. Either way, give them a good rub and rinse to get the dirt and bacteria off the outside before you peel or cut.
Give the potatoes a rough dice. Half inch cubes work nicely.
Now, this is where I cheat a little.
I throw the little cubes into a microwave safe bowl (usually the one I’ll be eating from later). I add a little water, cover the whole works with a damp paper towel, and give it about two minutes in the microwave. I want them soft but not “cooked.” You can also par boil the potatoes to just before “fork tender.”
In your choice of medium pot, melt a tablespoon of butter. When the butter is fully melted, toss in your potatoes. “Fry” the potatoes in the butter over medium to high heat until they start to get a little brown and crispy on the outside, about 3-5 minutes. Add a “pinch” each salt, pepper, dried minced onions, garlic powder or paste, and smoked paprika* (you can always add more later but it’s very hard to take it away if you over salt or something) and a teaspoon of chicken base (this stuff) or concentrated stock (this stuff).
Rough chop cooked ham or bacon** (or both!) into the pan with the potatoes and remaining butter. Stir to coat, reduce to heat to low, and cover for 3-5 minutes to marry the flavors.
Uncover and add another tablespoon butter, one cup milk, and one half cup heavy cream. Simmer to melt butter and bring liquids up to temperature. Add half cup mixture of shredded cheddar, grated Parmesan, and shredded Swiss cheese. Stir cheese into warm milk and cover to simmer 5-10 minutes (until cheese is thoroughly melted). Taste it while still cooking and add more seasoning if needed.
Serve hot. 😊 Obviously.
* Any variety of red pepper powder, depending on your taste. Smoked paprika will add a mild amount of heat to the end product. Chili powder, cayenne, and chipotle powder can be used for different end results.
** While I still recommend using regular, crisply cooked bacon, the soft bacon bits (not the crunchy ones) have a more concentrated bacon flavor. Try throwing a tablespoon or so in with the butter and potatoes in the beginning of the cooking process.