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Loaded baked potato soup is a simple, luscious bowl of comfort for colder months

Loaded baked potato soup is made quickly to warm you up on cold days.  (Tom McCorkle/For the Washington Post)
Loaded baked potato soup is made quickly to warm you up on cold days. (Tom McCorkle/For the Washington Post)
By Ann Maloney Washington Post

I am not crazy for soup like some people. They could eat it every day, long for it and rave about the latest soup recipe they’ve discovered. For me, other than gumbo, which I’ll eat any day, any time, soup is a seasonal thing, an occasional dish, and the occasion is usually because it’s cold outside.

When the temperature dips and I cannot seem to warm my toes, the one thing that usually takes the chill off is a bowl of hot soup. If there is no gumbo tucked away in the freezer that I can thaw, I’m apt to slurp a bowl of wonton soup or a dig into some variation of chicken soup with rice or noodles.

Or, if I’m making it myself on a weeknight, I’ll conjure potato soup because it is so easy and luscious. A loaded baked potato soup is one of my favorites. This one-pot version, which I adapted from Eating Well – because it’s January and so, of course, I am thinking about eating healthier – is made in about 40 minutes.

It’s simple. You fry a couple of slices of bacon. Set that aside. Then fry a little onion and garlic in the bacon fat. Next, dice the potatoes and add them and broth to the pot, then simmer until tender.

You can make a chunky soup by removing and mashing half of the potatoes and then returning them to the pot. Or, if you prefer a smooth soup, use an immersion blender to puree the potatoes in the pan; or, transfer the potato mixture, in batches, if necessary, to a blender and puree.

To add creaminess, stir in a little sour cream and cheese. Ladle the soup into bowls and top it with crumbled bacon, more grated cheese and a sprinkling of chives or scallions.

I used reduced fat sour cream and found it hit the mark. I also used no-salt broth. You might want to add ¼ teaspoon of salt after tasting, but remember, you are going to crumble bacon on top, so maybe hold off until after that first taste.

Also, this recipe only calls for a half-cup of cheese, which didn’t seem like enough to me, but I found it plenty cheesy because you sprinkle a little on top of each bowl just before serving and get melty bites as you dig into it.

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Adapted from eatingwell.com.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 slices bacon

½ cup chopped white or yellow onion

2 large garlic cloves, minced or grated, about 1 tablespoon

1 ½ pounds russet potatoes (2 to 3 medium), peeled and diced

4 cups no-salt chicken or vegetable low-sodium chicken broth

½ cup reduced-fat sour cream

½ cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese, divided

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

¼ cup snipped fresh chives or finely chopped scallion greens, for serving

¼ teaspoon ground white pepper

¼ teaspoon kosher salt (optional)

Set a paper towel-lined plate or a rack near the stove. In a large saucepan over medium heat, add the oil and heat until shimmering.

Add the bacon and cook, turning it occasionally, until crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the bacon to the prepared plate to drain, leaving the oil and bacon drippings in the pan.

Add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring, until starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the potatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer about half the potatoes to a bowl and mash until almost smooth but still a little chunky

Return the potatoes to the pan along with the sour cream, ¼ cup (about 1 ounce) of the cheese and the pepper.

Cook, stirring, until the cheese is melted and the soup is heated through, about 2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.

Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with crumbled bacon, the remaining cheese and the chives or scallion greens and serve immediately.

Yield: 4 servings (about 6½ cups)

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