This recipe is our first foray into the new cookbook Slow Cooker Revolution from America’s Test Kitchen. If you like learning about what works in cooking and why, you will love America’s Test Kitchen (on PBS). It’s like Alton Brown but without the goofy theatrics (don’t take that as a knock, Alton). Their research into this book is essentially a reinvention of how to use a slow cooker to make easy but awesome meals. We’re excited for it.
That being said, this recipe isn’t what I would consider a hands-down winner. The end result was very good; that’s not the issue. The problem is that the preparation, while not difficult, completely tosses aside the usual advantages of the slow cooker. Usually there is only a little prep (which you can do in the morning) and it cooks for 8+ hours in the slow cooker, so you can go to work and come home again to a finished dish.
This recipe takes more than 1.5 hours of work before walking away from the slow cooker, and then it only cooks for 4-6 hours. Although it can be a meal unto itself, this soup is not a weekday dish. Given that fact and the general effort involved, there are other recipes that I would put in the queue ahead of it.
What this meal did do was give us something interesting and new to try during Dark Days, which are almost over soon (we’re ready for them to be!).
Slow Cooker Fully-loaded Potato Soup
Makes 4-6 servings
|Amount||Ingredient||Preparation||Where we bought it
(* Union Sq. Greenmarket)
|3 lbs||Russet potatoes or similar||Peeled and cubed into 1/2 inch pieces||Berried Treasures Farm *|
|8 oz||Bacon (about 8 strips)||Chopped into 1/2 inch pieces||Flying Pigs Farm *|
|1||Yellow onions||Finely chopped||Paffenroth Gardens *|
|2 cloves||Garlic||Minced||Keith’s Farm *|
|1.5 tsp||Dried thyme|
|2 TBsp||All-purpose flour||Cayuga Pure Organics *|
|4 cups||Vegetable broth||Or chicken stock; separated into 1 cup and 3 cups||Homemade *|
|2 cups||Cheddar cheese||Shredded||Cato Corner Farm *|
|0.5 cup||Half-and-half||Or heavy cream||Milk Thistle Farm *|
|To taste||Kosher salt|
|To taste||Black pepper||Freshly ground|
|To taste||Scallions||Thinly sliced (optional, for garnish)|
- Peel the potatoes. Cube them into 1/2 inch pieces. Don’t underestimate this step. Look at the pictures. It’s a lot of potatoes!
- Peel and dice the onion into small pieces. Mince the garlic, and put it and the onion aside in a dish with the thyme. Chop the uncooked bacon into 1/2 inch pieces. I chopped ours straight out of the freezer, so it was easy. Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat and cook the bacon until it is crisp (5 – 10 minutes).
- Preferably using tongs, remove the bacon from the pan and put it aside on a plate lined with paper towel. Refrigerate it for use at the end. Pour most of the bacon grease out of the pan, except for about 2 Tablespoons worth.
I actually measure two TBsp of water into a bowl so that I could eyeball it. Remember to use oven mitts because the cast iron will be hot! Put the pan back on the heat and add the onion, garlic, and thyme.
- Cook the aromatics (that’s the fancy name for what’s in the pan right now) for about 10 minutes, until the onions brown lightly, stir occasionally so they don’t burn. Add the flour, thoroughly stirring it in, and cook for 1 minute.
- Add 1 cup of the broth/stock. Deglaze the pan by scraping all the bits off the bottom and into the cooking liquid. Stir everything together thoroughly. Once the mixture has become a gravy-like base (after a minute or two), transfer it to the slow cooker. Add in the remaining 3 cups of broth and stir to combine. Add the potatoes and stir to distribute everything evenly. Cover and set to cook on low. Let it cook for 4-6 hours.
- When the 4-6 hour period is nearly over, shred the cheese. This is one case where using a food processes may come in handy. Because it will be melted in, the texture doesn’t matter. Sometimes hand-grating is preferable, but in this case it isn’t. Shred or grate a little additional cheese for garnish on top of the soup.
- Once the long cook is complete, fish out about 2 cups of potato cubes, which should be relatively soft by now, and transfer them to a bowl. Mash them until smooth.
- Add the mashed potatoes back into the slow cooker. Stir in the cheese until it’s evenly melted. Then stir in the half-and-half or cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let the soup heat for an additional 5 minutes.
In the meantime, reheat the bacon bits in the microwave on the paper towel-lined plate, for about 30 seconds. Plate the soup and on the top of each bowl of soup add a small portion of bacon, additional cheese, and, if you are using them, scallions.
- Note: I cooked the soup for 6 hours, and the potatoes were just mushy enough by the end, although the hear of your slow-cooker may vary. That being said, my soup was a little dry. You can see from the picture below how lumpy it is. It should be a bit smoother than that.
If necessary, add additional water or broth into the slow cooker before serving, a little bit at a time, and stir. Repeat until you get to a smooth consistency. If necessary when reheating, you can do the same on a per-serving basis. I’m usually timid with such things for fear of making a watery mess, but ith this recipe, you don’t need to be scared of adding additional liquid to thin it out. It will re-absorb it nicely.