Sunday, October 3, 2010

Unforgettable Winter Potato Soup

I've been longing for this soup for ages, and finally it rained and dropped Georgia temperatures down to the 70s!  Not ideal, but, hey, I'll take what I can get.  I've loved this soup for years, and my mother, who is a brilliant cook herself, originated it one long winter when we had a whole lot of Yukon Gold potatoes in the house.  It's unbelievable.  

If you're not too worried about miscombining (a la Natalia Rose), add the clams (directions for those in italics).  It's out of this world!

Unforgettable Winter Potato Soup
Serves 4-8, or one for two days if you don't feel like sharing!
5 large gold potatoes (Yes, they must be gold potatoes.)
1 sweet onion. diced
2 large carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 carton low-sodium organic vegetable broth
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 lemon or lime, juiced
1/2 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp Herbes de Provence
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

1/4 cup Cognac or brandy (V.S.O.P., preferably)
2 small cans chopped organic clams

Prick the gold potatoes with a fork a few times and boil them in water with a tablespoon of salt until they're soft inside.  Drain, run cold water over the potatoes, and peel them quickly.  (Or don't, if you like potato skins.  I love them!)  Chop into cubes and set aside.

In the largest pot you have, turn heat to medium-high and add olive oil.  When the oil sputters when you flick a few drops of water onto it, add the diced onion, a pinch of salt and pepper, and cook, occasionally stirring, until the onions turn translucent.  Add in the diced carrots, celery, and garlic, season with a bit of salt and pepper, and cook for about 4-5 minutes, stirring.  

Add in the 1/4 cup Cognac or brandy and let boil for about a minute.  Open the cans of clams almost all the way and drain out the clam liquor into the pot, keeping the clams in the can.  Add in the potatoes, some more salt and pepper, at least a tablespoon of herbes de Provence, and the crushed red pepper flakes.  Toss the vegetable mixture so that each cubed piece is coated in everything and spends a bit of time cooking directly in the cognac and clam liquor.  Add the carton of vegetable broth and the juice of the lemon or lime.  Stir, and use the back of the spoon to mash up the potatoes a bit if you want a thicker broth (and this is why we wait to add the clams, plus they get tough easily).  

Bring to a boil and simmer for at least 15 minutes.  It gets better the longer it sits, although it will be most brothy in the beginning, before the potatoes have begun to absorb all the liquid.  I like my soup with lots of broth, so I add extra water and a bit of seasoning if I think it's become too thick.  Serve and enjoy!

  • I use a Westmark garlic press, which is better than any American one I have ever found.  I grew up with it in Germany, and was desolate without it when I moved away from my mother's house until Amazon's endless suppliers saved me.  It's small, which means that it's lightweight, and all the garlic comes out of the bottom instead of spreading out and sneaking out the top of the press.  It's also easy to clean--just rub it under running water to get the bits of garlic out of the holes.  If a bit of garlic is really stubborn, blow through the holes and make a fun spitting sound that entertains children worldwide!  But the most brilliant thing about this garlic press is that it actually presses so hard that you get garlic juice, not just garlic pieces! It infuses everything you make with intense garlic flavor, so you get to save on the amount of garlic you use.  It's a win all the way around!
  • You can use a tablespoon of butter instead of olive oil to sweat the onions; this is just the vegan version.  But nothing really beats the smell of onions in butter, does it?
  • I usually add in a bit of water on top of the vegetable broth, just because I like to spoon liquid soup.  It's up to you!
  • This tastes pretty awesome with a slice of the Publix gourmet Sports Loaf or Multigrain Loaf.  
  • By the way, the Sports Loaf is on sale this week for $3.99!  Just be sure to ask for it in one of those bags covered with holes, and then take it out of the bag immediately upon getting home to preserve the crust.  I have a small wooden cutting board for bread, so I just cut whatever I want and leave it, cut side down, on the wood board.  The crust stays crusty until the bread is gone, which is usually very quickly!  If you don't have one specifically for bread, just use your regular one, although I'd prefer wood or bamboo.
I'll share more recipes soon!  Cooking, to me, is the supreme form of fun, relaxation, and winding down, so I get a whole lot of practice!