by John Ryan
This is a great opportunity to use newspaper on the counter. You can peel the potatoes right on the paper, fold it up and toss it.
As a kid, one of my favorite soups—no, let me take that back—my absolute favorite was potato soup. It was soothing the way mashed potatoes are soothing; satisfying the way hot bread and butter are satisfying; a refuge from winter the way a fire in the fireplace is.
I asked my mother for the recipe ever since I started cooking for myself, but she was always pretty vague about it. (Or perhaps I just didn't believe how easy it really was.) After a while I just forgot about it.
A year or so ago I came across a recipe for corn chowder in Serious Pig, a book by John Thorne with Matt Lewis Thorne. As I was making their recipe, I tasted my childhood potato soup! It was almost too easy to believe. Now I know why my mother liked to make it. It took about 30 minutes and every time she made it I thought she was the best cook in the world.
1-1/2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
Approximately 2 pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced thick-thin*
2 to 2-1/2 cups water
2 cups milk
Extra butter and freshly ground pepper
1) In a 3-quart pot, stew the onion in butter until soft. Don't brown it, just let it soften while you peel and slice the potatoes.
2) Add the salt, potatoes, and water to barely cover the potatoes. Let the soup simmer until the potatoes are just about done, 15 or 20 minutes.
3) Stir in the milk and simmer until the potatoes are really tender, another 15 minutes or so. (Don't' worry about breaking the potatoes as you stir. In fact you want them to break so the thin part and dissolves and thickens the soup.)
4) Season with salt and ladle into bowls. Slip a pat of putter in each bowl, grind lots of pepper on top and serve.
*Thick-thin sliced potatoes: I picked this up from the Thorne's recipe. It means to slice the potatoes so each slice comes out thin at one end and thick at the other. Actually, it's the way sliced potatoes come out unless I'm being compulsive about slicing them evenly.
The logic behind this is that the thin part of the potato will overcook, dissolve, and thicken the soup, leaving the thick part with some bite.
I don't want to yuppify this, but I recommend Yukon Gold potatoes. They make great soup. But in truth, most any potato is fine. Avoid russet potatoes because they tend to break down too much. Also, go easy on yourself in the peeling department and don't buy small, new potatoes.
Visit All About Potatoes featuring dozens of potato recipes
Both chef and musician, John Ryan wrote the Just Good Food blog from 1996 through 2001.
This page created January 1999
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