Thursday, December 01, 2011

Must Write this Recipe Down: Sinful Potato Soup

My honey-man's number one complaint about my cooking would be this:  I'm always making up my own recipes - - and I never write them down.  After tonight's dinner, it was demanded that I write this one up and pronto.

SINFUL POTATO SOUP:  Makes enough for 4-6 people.  To be prepared the day/night before you intend to eat it, so that the stock and seasonings are well infused into the potatoes... Note the actual ingredients have been bolded to help identify the needed items for one's shopping list.

4-5 large Shepody potatoes = you need 8 cups, thinly diced = also amounts to about 2 lbs.

The Specifics on the Dicing: Cut the potatoes lengthwise into 3/4"-thick, fry-like long pieces, about 12-16 per potato... Keep these long pieces all stacked atop each other and then cut them together crosswise into 1/8"-thick, thinly diced pieces . . . think small Scrabble pieces!  But be careful with your knife!
The Specifics on Shepody Potatoes: Larger and more elongated potatoes are easiest to cut/dice the aforementioned way.  In terms of potato quality, the potatoes for this recipe need a sturdy yet thin skin, and they also need a texture that will retain some firmness when cooked in liquid... Red potatoes lose their skins too easily, while the skins of Russets and Idahoans are too thick/rough. Furthermore, Reds, Russets and Idahoans, they are all too grainy, too starchy in texture, better for baking or for potato salads. A 'white' potato is best for this soup. If one can't find Shepody potatoes, Yukon Gold or Yellow Finn can substitute, but their smaller, rounder shape make them more difficult to dice like mini-Scrabble pieces.  For the total cooking geek (that would be me): Try this LINK re: Shepody potatoes.

As you're dicing up the potatoes, keep the diced potatoes barely submerged in 3-4 cups of cold water plus 1 teas. either Rice vinegar or White distilled vinegar to both prevent browning and to help the potatoes retain their shape during the cooking. The vinegar is a trick I learned via Cooks Illustrated. Once done with the dicing, throw the potatoes along with their water into a 5-6 quart stock pot on medium heat. Keep in mind that later on you'll need to be able to cover this pot with a lid and store it overnight in your refrigerator.

Immediately add 32oz of chicken stock - I use salt free, free range organic stock; I swear good stock makes all the difference!
As you prepare the rest of the following ingredients, allow the potatoes and stock to reach a gentle rolling simmer - - but do NOT bring it to a full boil!  Reduce the heat once the mix begins to boil. Hard boiling bursts the starch cells of the potatoes, resulting in a mushy, grainy soup texture -- another lesson learned via Cooks Illustrated.

3 small/regular shallots or 2 large shallots, finely minced = aim between 1/4 cup n' a 1/3 cup
Note: Shallots provide a nuttier flavor than onions and they nearly dissolve into the soup.
1/2 teas. white pepper
1 teas. freshly ground/cracked pepper (rainbow mix with green, red, white and black is best)
1/4 teas. red pepper flakes
1 teas. kosher salt (or to taste)

Place all the above ingredients into the pot with the potatoes and stock on medium-low heat for a gentle, rolling simmer, stirring maybe 2 or 3 times over the duration. The pot should be left uncovered, allowing the liquid to reduce.  I must repeat:  DO NOT BOIL! 

From the beginning of the cook time, to end when you'll turn off the heat, the potatoes should simmer for about 40 minutes, give or take, just until tender - - but NOT long enough for them to fall apart if stabbed with a fork. You can easily do other things about the kitchen while the stuff simmers. There's no need to watch over the pot.

Let the pot cool to a slightly warm temp - - cool enough that placing it in your refrigerator won't devastate the temperature of your fridge. So yeah, once significantly cooler, cover the pot and keep overnight in the fridge.  NOTE of REASSURANCE:  Don't worry if it doesn't smell all too great just yet.  It will be amazing once fully created!  I promise!

About 30 minutes before you want to serve your soup, place the pot on medium heat, still covered so as to help speed the re-heat, stirring maybe once or twice until it reaches a strong simmer - - we still don't want any uber bubbling boil here! Did I mention NO BOILING?! Once a steady simmer is reached, reduce the heat for a gently rolling simmer for about 10-15 minutes and then turn off the heat. Let it cool for about 5 minutes.

Next, you'll want to mash about 1 cup's worth of the potatoes somehow... either strain out some with a slotted spoon and mash 'em with a fork and return them to the pot, OR do what I do:  I have a long handled potato masher and I simply stick it down into the pot for 2-3 smashes into the pot's bottom. 

This last part requires a whisk: First dump in 1/2 c. real sour cream - - the full fat, tangy kind; this is no time for wimpy 'lite' sour cream people! Quickly whisk-mix it in and allow it to bring down the temperature of the pot.
Next, throw in an entire 8 oz. block, plus 4 oz. more, of cream cheese. Oh yes! And whisk, whisk, whisk until all the cream cheese has melted.  It may look a bit chunky/curdled at first, but keep whisking it and will smooth out as you continue to whisk at it. Shouldn't take more than 5 minutes, give or take.

Serve with a lil' Tabasco sprinkled on top each serving, or with some cheese shreds, or some freshly ground pepper.  Buttered, toasted sourdough bread is fabulous -more like essential- for dipping!

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