Since winter has turned serious, I have begun making serious soup, large pots of the homemade stuff. I do not sneer at soup that comes in a can. Canned soups have improved dramatically in the past few years. Now, there are cans of chicken soup that actually taste like chicken. My current canned faves are Progresso chicken barley and roasted chicken Italiano, extra spicy.
I pop open these cans when I am looking for a satisfying snack or a quick lunch. But when I feel the need for substantial fare, I make the soup myself. Homemade soups offer so much more -- more flavor, more spices and more soup to chow down on than a mere canful.
The other day, as ice coated the snow drifts and spirits sagged, I made one of my favorite soups, a potato soup flavored with onions, bacon and sour cream.
This soup and I go back many winters. As I began making the soup, dropping slices of bacon to cook in the bottom of the large pot, the aroma reminded me of the chilly nights, some 30 years ago, when making the soup was the big culinary event of my life.
At the time, I lived in an apartment. The apartment had a gas range. The oven didn't work, just the burners. Since my wife was 300 miles away in graduate school, most of my weekday cooking consisted of boiling water, then dropping bags of frozen food into the water.
But on winter weekends, when my wife would come to town, I would actually cook. The potato soup was my mainstay. It didn't require exotic ingredients, just bacon, potatoes, onions, beef bouillon and sour cream. It didn't demand great skill, just a willingness to peel potatoes and chop onions. And it didn't require an oven. The whole thing could be cooked on the stove top.
Now that my wife and I have an oven that works and two teen-age boys who eat, we cook all the time. We don't purchase a lot of exotic ingredients at the grocery store. But we do buy a lot. Last weekend, for instance, during a lull between winter storms, my wife and I went grocery shopping. We filled a large grocery cart with provisions. It looked like enough to feed an army. My wife said it would last a week.
Later, when I started the preparations for making the potato soup, I quickly realized I would face a new challenge when serving it. I had to hide the onions.
One of our kids is anti-onion. If he finds a piece of onion in a dish, he won't eat the dish. This soup calls for 4 cups of onions. Disguising their presence was tricky. It required chopping the onions into very fine pieces, and walking a fine line when questioned about the soup's ingredients.
The onion dissolved as the soup cooked. When the kid found a lump that he thought might be an onion, I told him it was probably a piece of potato.
4 slices of bacon, diced
4 cups chopped onion
2 tablespoons flour
4 cups beef bouillon
3 large potatoes, sliced thin
2 egg yolks
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon parsley
1 tablespoon chervil (optional)
In a deep pot, saute bacon for 5 minutes. Add onions and saute for 5 more minutes. Stir in flour. Add bouillon, stirring constantly. Add potatoes and simmer for 1 hour.
Combine egg yolks and sour cream and stir into soup. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Add parsley and chervil, if using, and serve.