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Level-Up Potato Soup

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SKILL LEVEL :
Easy
It is amazing how the simple potato can be made into so many comforting dishes, whether baked, roasted, fried or made into a gratin. Potatoes also make wonderful potato soup, whether it is a cold vichyssoise, a French potage or an American baked potato soup. Level-Up potato soup is really a twist on a French potage that gets an umami lift from a little miso, some freshness from a little lemon juice, some crunch from fried prosciutto, some tang from crumbled feta and some heat from chili oil and red pepper flakes. Sound interesting? Let's break down how and why this potato soup is so delicious.

French Potage

French potage is based on a medieval soup that used whatever vegetables were on hand, frequently potatoes. The soup was cooked in a kettle over the fire for days until it broke down into something delicious and creamy. Today we can make a potage without cooking it for days. We cook the potatoes and any other vegetables you want in some broth and then put them in a blender to achieve a creamy, silky smooth soup any without any dairy. Or if you like you can add a little dairy like you do in a vichyssoise.

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To get the creamiest texture use a blender to process the soup. Food processors and immersion blenders are OK, but they will not get your the same silky result. See my tips for making creamed soups without the cream.

Miso

Miso adds umami, or deliciousness, to this soup. For a milder flavor use a white miso, or go big and use a darker miso for a deeper, more pungent impact.

Salt and Lemon

When I am seasoning a soup, or for that matter most any dish, the first two ingredients I generally add are kosher salt and lemon or lime juice. Often times, these two ingredients do the trick and nothing more needs to be added. Salt magnifies the innate flavor in food. Citrus livens up a dull dish and makes it sparkle. If you are trying to cut back on salt, you can lean harder on citrus to create flavor. In this soup, salt and lemon lift the blandness of the potato.
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For this dish, there are multiple ingredients that add some saltiness, so you don't need to use as much.  Miso, prosciutto and feta all add saltiness. Still, I add a pinch of Kosher Diamond Crystal salt when I am cooking the onions. Why? Salt helps draw out the moisture in the onions, and causes them to cook faster and brown more quickly. If you add salt at this stage, that may be enough for this soup. Always taste when you are doing the final seasoning and adjust accordingly.
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Diamond Crystal salt is the workhorse in my kitchen. I prefer Diamond Crystal because of its larger, crunchy, irregular crystals. These chonky crystals have more airspace between each crystal, which means pound for pound, you use less salt when you measure out Diamond Crystal salt. One tablespoon of Diamond Crystal salt weighs about 3 grams compared to Morton's Kosher salt which weighs about 5 grams and standard table salt which weighs about 7 grams. Except in baking, I advocate salting to taste and not by measure.

Fried Prosciutto

I have to admit, I really like to fry my prosciutto. Why? It brings out the flavor of the prosciutto and adds crunch. Crunch is one of the characteristics that draw people to a dish. A single thin slice of prosciutto per bowl of soup adds tremendously to this soup. Bacon or pancetta can be substituted, but prosciutto will give you the best flavor and crunch reward.

Feta

Crumbled feta adds a tangy saltiness that contrasts brilliantly with potato. You could substitute cheddar or blue cheese and it would be good too, but you wouldn't get the briny tang delivered by feta.

Chili Oil and Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

Level-Up potato soup | Something New For Dinner When seasoning a dish, after salt and citrus I reach for some heat. On the counter next to my stove I keep a couple pepper grinders, a few varieties of salt and a jar of crushed red pepper flakes. I put the red pepper flakes on just about everything as they add a nice bite of heat that can really balance out a dish. Lately I have been also using hot chili oil when I want to introduce heat. I use Chinese Hot Chili oil a lot, but recently have fallen in love with Stonehouse Hot Chili Oil. It is a delicious garnish to this soup.
Note: I do not have a financial relationship with Stonehouse Olive Oil. I just love their products and use them almost exclusively for my. olive oil.
Salt, fat, acid, heat | Something New For Dinner
Image credit: Amazon
You might have noticed by now that my first seasoning go-to's are salt, acid and heat. I've been cooking this way for a long time, but absolutely loved it when I discovered Samin Nostrat's book, Salt, Fat, Acid and Heat. It explained so much of what I had been doing intuitively as a cook for decades. If you haven't already bought this book, I highly recommend it to both seasoned and novice cooks. She has an amazing grasp on how to cook intuitively without recipes. Even if you are wedded to recipes, her knowledge will help you simplify and improve on recipes by eliminating unneeded steps and helping you get the most flavor out of a recipe.

More on Blending this Level-Up Potato Soup

Level up potato soup | Something New For Dinner As I mentioned at the beginning of these recipe headnotes, if at all possible use a blender to puree this potato soup to get the best silky texture. Texture, like flavor, aroma and visual appeal is important in getting the best result in your cooking. When blending hot soup, just remember to let the soup cool a bit, don't fill the blender up more than about two thirds of the way and keep your hand firmly on the lid while operating the blender. Otherwise, the hot soup can expand and explode all over you. I unfortunately know this from experience...and more than one experience. Sometimes I am a slow learner.

Level Up Potato Soup

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 8 Servings

This Level-Up Potato Soup is a sophisticated upgrade to your standard potato soup. It is easy-to-make and incredibly satisfying.

Ingredients

For the soup:

  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • 6 leeks, washed and sliced (white parts and 1" of green parts)
  • 1 T fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, diced in 3/4" cubes with skin on
  • 8 cups of chicken, vegetable broth or water
  • 2 -3 T miso paste
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Kosher salt
  • Lemon pepper

For the garnish:

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 8 slices prosciutto
  • 1/2 cup chives or green onions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
  • Hot chili oil to taste

Instructions

For the soup:

  1. Melt butter in a large Dutch oven or similar heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. Add leeks, thyme and bay leaf. Add a pinch of kosher salt and sauté for about 10 minutes until tender.
  2. Stir in potatoes to combine and season with fresh ground pepper. Add stock and bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cook until potatoes are done, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  3. Working in batches, put the soup in a blender, filling it up to no more than 2/3 capacity. Each batch should be comprised of both potatoes and broth. Put the lid on the blender and firmly hold the lid on securely while blending each batch until smooth. 
  4. Return all the blended soup to the original pot over low heat and season with miso, lemon juice and lemon pepper. Pour into individual bowls and garnish.

For the garnish:

  1. While the soup is cooking, heat a frying pan to medium high. Add a splash of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the prosciutto slices, cooking them in batches and flipping each strip after a minute or two. Cook until crisp. Remove from the pan and place on a paper towel-lined plate to remove extra oil. Crumble the prosciutto strips.
  2. Garnish the soup starting with the feta cheese so it is the first garnish to hit the hot soup, then adding crumbled prosciutto, chives or green onions, a few drops of hot chili oil and a sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes. 

Courses Dinner, lunch

Cuisine New American

THIS SERVES WELL WITH
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