1/2 pound bacon (cut to bits)
vegetable boullion cube
2-4 yellow onions
black pepper, rosemary, paprika**
~ 1/2 to 1 c. heavy cream (or evaporated milk)
shreddy smoked/sharp cheese OR cheeze-its
[I added that shiny picture on 2/13.]
Fry the bacon in a heavy, straight-sided pan. While it cooks, peel and quarter the potatoes and coarsely dice the onions. Start boiling enough water to cover the potatoes, plus 2″, and add the boullion cube. When the cube dissolves, add the potatoes. Let the potatoes simmer, they don’t need a high heat.
When the bacon is done frying, remove it from the pan and drain on paper towels. Leaving the fat in the pan, add the onions. Deglaze with a splash of white wine (or whatever) and add seasonings. Cook the onions over low-medium heat, adding spoonfuls of the simmering vegetable broth from the pot of potatoes so the onions are always wet but not floating.*** Do this for 15-20 minutes until they are translucent and soft.
The point is not to be eating bits of onion but to have the onion melt into the rich flavorful body to the soup, so if in doubt, cook them a little longer!
When the onions are squishy enough, prepare to add the potatoes by mashing them right in the pan of water. Either use a potato masher or squish them against the side of the pan with a big spoon. I like to leave enough potato bits to have something to chew in the soup, but mashing them like this gets lots of the starch into the liquid, which helps thicken it. Pour the whole thing into the onion pan and stir.
At this point, you can add the bacon bits back in if you want soup-integrated bacon, or reserve them to sprinkle on top of the soup if you prefer crispy bacon bits.
Add the cream and bring to a simmer for a few minutes. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with either a smoky shredded cheese and bacon bits or cheeze-its.
Some notes on variations:
Pouring the potatoes into the onions is the point where you can start doing whatever the bleeding hell you want to this soup without fucking it up. Any time it is too thin? Cook it down. Too thick? Add some water. Here are some variations:
- You don’t need the cream. It will still be delicious soup.
- You don’t need the bacon. You can start the onions in butter, duck fat, or olive oil instead.
- Other vegetables I have added with success: peas, peapods, parsnips, bok choy. Bell peppers didn’t work for me.
- Top with fresh beansprouts and parmesan.
- Leftover meat goes great in this, so pick over a roast chicken or dice some beef or pork. Or all three.
- I made potato soup with lobster broth once and it was great, so do that if you like lobster, but then maybe swap the rosemary for sage and bay leaf.
Finally, that potato + onion point is also the point where you can hold this soup pretty much indefinitely, which makes it great for when you’re cooking large meals, or if you don’t know quite when you want to serve dinner. If you add the cream before holding, I find that it forms a skin, which is not a disaster because it stirs right back in.
* This footnote is a speculative potato-free alternative for bilgerat:
Instead of potatoes, take a small head of cauliflower. Cut it down, including the stems. Simmer it in the vegetable broth, but instead of mashing, you will probably need to blend the fuck out of it to get a good soup consistency. I have a terrifying blender that would do the job admirably. Consider reserving at least a cup of bite-size florets to add whole to your soup.
I also wonder if it would be better to reduce the amount of vegetable broth and increase the heavy cream so that it thickens better.
** Not too much hot paprika, as it overwhelms the other flavors in the soup.
*** Is there a technical term? This is one of those food things where I judge visually what seems right, like knowing a sentence is wrong without understanding the grammar.