Friday, March 18, 2011

Parmesan Potato Soup

Recipe modified by Gretchen Wilson – February 3, 2011
For a commentary-free and printer-friendly version of it, please click here.

Recipe originally published in Allrecipes daily e-zine on Sunday, November 30, 2008.

If you live in Chicago, you may think the date this dish was made looks familiar.  It was the beginning of “snowpocalypse”.  Something in my brain said, 2 feet of snow = soup for dinner.  What better soup to make than a hearty potato soup?  I was excited by this one because of the parmesan cheese in it.  Usually, there’s a light cheddar presence or if you’re making baked potato soup, possibly an American cheese.  Mostly, it is blended potatoes in a cream base.

My finished product:

© You Want Me to Cook?

Picture published with recipe:

© Allrecipes

Now, I always have to remind myself that these are not professional photos for these recipes.  In fact, most of the recipes are user submitted, so there isn’t much control for what the chef/photographer does with their recipe or photo.  I like to use the pictures more as a frame of reference than what it “should” look like.  That being said, my soup and Katy’s soup (Katy is a fellow allrecipes user and the photographer) look pretty similar, so I was confident that I was on the right track.  She may have a little extra bacon in her soup, but who wouldn’t add more bacon where they could?

I had several disasters while making this dish.  Some were recipe generated and some were “me” generated.  Read on for more information…

for more details about what my ratings mean, go to Gretchen’s Rating System

MessSIGH – in all fairness, this rating has a lot to do with my stupidity than the actual recipe, but I have to admit the recipe didn’t prepare me very well for what I needed.  If you look at the equipment listing, I have an “extra large saucepan” listed for the potatoes.  Well my saucepan wasn’t “extra large” enough.  Unfortunately, I realized this as I was chopping potatoes and had already started my water boiling, so I had to transfer the water to another pot.

My next biggest pot was my small soup kettle and since my other soup kettle is beyond large, I quickly realized I was going to have to cook the potatoes, drain them, start the soup in the same kettle (which also means I have to wait to start the base) and then put them back in.  What ended up transpiring is spilling water – twice – and getting starchy mess everywhere.  Add in the grease-popping element of cooking the bacon and peeling and chopping the potatoes and you’ve got a fairly large mess on your hands.

Start-to-Finish Time: ABOUT AN HOUR AND 30 MINUTES – Even with having to cook the potatoes fully before getting to start the soup base, it still didn’t take me too much time.  Also, only about 35-40 minutes of that is hands-on time.

Prep Work: SLIGHT BLOOD LOSS – another confession: I did more prep work than necessary.  You don’t have to peel the potatoes.  Honestly, I don’t know why I did because the recipe doesn’t even allude to it, but I did anyway.  The chopping doesn’t have to be precise, so it is relatively easy.

Ease of Recipe: THE BASICS – all the problems I had aside, there really isn’t anything that is difficult to do.  You do a little chopping, little mixing, boil some potatoes, cook some bacon and stir some soup.

OverallYUMMY – a lot of times, we’ll eat a couple bowls of soup and the rest will sit and possibly be thrown away.  There are only two of us here, and there really isn’t such a thing as a small batch of soup.  This batch didn’t last very long and was completely eaten.

Recipe Information:
Time estimates are from the original publisher of the recipe, not the length of time it took me to create it.  Look for my comments below.  Nutritional Information is based on original recipe.  Any changes I make to reduce the caloric, fat, cholesterol or sodium content are not reflected in the Nutritional Information.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Ready in: 55 minutes
Servings: 7

Nutritional Information
  • Calories 505
  • Total Fat 27.2g
  • Cholesterol 37mg
  • Sodium 1368mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 41.8g
  • Fiber 3.6g
  • Protein 22.9g

Assuming you don’t peel the potatoes, like I did, you can definitely get the prep work done in 15 minutes as the recipe states.  If you’re lucky enough to have two large pots, you can also cook the potatoes, bacon and soup base simultaneously, so 40 minutes is definitely possible there as well.  I did not have that luxury, so here is how it all shook out for me:
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Potatoes cooked in: 20 minutes
  • Soup cooked in: 30 minutes

The servings are a decent size and you’ll definitely get seven out of this batch.  You can stretch the servings even further if you have a small bowl with a salad and bread or a light sandwich.  Of course, the nutritional information isn’t terribly impressive.  I cut down on the calories, fat and cholesterol content by using no-fat chicken broth and skim milk.  Also, I helped the sodium level by using reduced sodium chicken broth and reduced sodium bacon.  Every little bit helps!

Changes denoted by red text

4 potatoes, peeled and cubed
½ cup butter
¾ cup chopped onion
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon seasoning salt
¼ teaspoon sage
½ teaspoon dried basil
¼ teaspoon celery salt
¼ teaspoon onion salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
4½ cups reduced sodium and no-fat chicken broth
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
6 cups skim milk
12 slices crisp cooked reduced sodium bacon, crumbled

Ingredient Notes:
Potatoes – as I said before, I actually peeled the potatoes by accident, but it worked out fine.  If you don’t like potato skin, don’t worry about it affecting the soup.

Butter – the original recipe used margarine, but I don’t ever use it.  I stuck with butter, but feel free to use margarine if you want.

Onion – I chopped 1 medium-sized onion to get ¾ cup.  Also, since there was no specification of the type of onion to use, I opted for one of the white variety.

Reduced Sodium and No-Fat Chicken Broth – almost all of the chicken broth I’ve found that is reduced-sodium is usually also no-fat.  One of the healthiest options I’ve found, so far, is Swanson’s Certified Organic chicken broth which has significantly lower sodium than its counterparts.

Parmesan Cheese – the recipe called for grated, but all I had on hand was shredded, so I used it.

Skim Milkskim Milk is what we drink and I had an entire gallon on hand.  I wasn’t buying another gallon of whole milk to make this soup.  Besides, skim milk has zero fat, a very small amount of cholesterol and a third-less calories.  Even 1% has half the fat and cholesterol in it.  It didn’t affect the quality of the soup at all.

Reduced Sodium Bacon – I selected a reduced-sodium bacon since the sodium level of this dish was pretty high.

Equipment Needed:
Vegetable peeler
Cutting board
Sharp knife
Extra large saucepan
Large skillet
Paper towels
Soup kettle with lid
Large spoon
Small bowl
Spoon – mixing

Equipment Notes:
Extra Large Saucepan – I used a fairly big one at first and it still wasn’t large enough.  Make sure it can hold about 3-4 pounds of chopped potatoes and enough water to cover it by about an inch.

Soup Kettle – whatever you use, it has to be big enough to hold 6 cups of milk, 4½ cups of chicken broth & 4 chopped potatoes.

(1)  Before prepping your ingredients, start the potato water boiling.

Usually, you put the potatoes in the pot and cover them with water then boil.  In this recipe, it called for you to get the water boiling first and then add the potatoes.  Either way works, I just wanted to follow the recipe.

(2)  Prep the ingredients.  Cook the bacon and drain it on paper towels.

There’s a reason I put steps 1 and 2 in this order…

I thought I’d be slick and start the water boiling, start a batch of bacon, and then prep the rest of the ingredients.  While I was chopping and keeping an eye on the bacon, I noticed the water wasn’t heating up and realized one burner on my stove wasn’t working.  While trying to figure it out, I burned the first batch of bacon – which I was made acutely aware of as my smoke detector began to blare and send the dogs in 3 different directions. 

Frustrated, I started a second batch, and then got distracted again with the whole potato/pot size situation.  Luckily I caught it before I burned the second batch.  My point is that bacon needs to be closely watched and if there is anything that can distract you from it, you want to hold off.

By the way, my nightmare didn’t stop there.  When I moved the pot over to another burner (I couldn’t get the burner I wanted to use to light), I accidentally turned the burner off – another lovely setback.  At this point, I was ready to run from the kitchen screaming and I hadn’t even got the soup started!

(3)  Cook the potatoes in boiling water until tender, approximately 15-20 minutesDrain potatoes in colander.

Don’t think the disaster stopped with above.  To extend it further, I splashed water on myself as I was draining the potatoes.  It’s hard to hold on to a pot when you splash boiling water on yourself.  I just screamed a lot to keep from dropping it into the sink.

(4)  In a soup kettle, sauté onion in butter over medium-high heat until tender.

(5)  In a small bowl, mix the flour, seasoning salt, sage, basil, celery salt, onion salt, ground black pepper and thyme.

I added in this step so the flour didn’t clump and distribute the spices unevenly.  It also gave me the option to put away some of the ingredients while my onions were cooking.  “Always clean as I go” is my motto.

(6)  Stir flour and spices into the onion mixture.

(7)  Gradually add broth, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes.

I like to add a little broth, mix until it is smooth and then add a little more.

(8)  Add potatoes, and return to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.

(9)  Stir in milk and cheese. Heat through.

(10)  Stir in bacon.

The parmesan really gives this potato soup a kick.  It was great and probably one of the best potato soups I’ve ever made.  The only reason I didn’t give it a higher rating was because the bacon doesn’t hold up well in the soup as a leftover.  So what would I do differently?
  • Someone suggested on the message board to add celery.  That sounded delicious!
  • I would use vegetable broth to make it a total vegetarian dish.
  • I wouldn’t use regular bacon.  Instead, I’d use the pre-cooked bacon and heat it up with my soup for each serving (1 piece per bowl).

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