Jan 12, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Crockpot Cheesy Potato Soup

January is soup month, and this is recipe #2.  Potato soup has come a long ways from its humble beginnings.  Not too long ago, mentioning it conjured up visions of a thin, milky broth with grainy, mushy potato chunks floating around in it.  Poor folks' food as my husband referred to it.  ("My daddy always said we'd be eatin' tater soup and pintos," he laments any time those two foods appear on our dinner table.) 

To my husband's chagrin, I like both potato soup and pintos, regardless of their humble qualities.  And sometimes I declare cook's prerogative and make them despite the groans.  Fortunately for us all, potato soup went upscale with the addition of cheese and some tasty garnishes, and is now proudly served at many restaurants.   Frankly, I've found a few versions to be a little thick...kind of like eating a bland queso dip.  But the restaurant versions, thick and cheesy, captured my kids' hearts and tastebuds and even convinced my husband that it could be a hearty and filling soup. So I've figured out some recipes that lighten the cheese factor and improve (IMHO) the taste and texture.

This particular recipe was shared between me and a friend via Facebook.  Now, I'm pretty sure SHE shared it with me, but it might have been the other way around (which would lead me to question where I got the recipe to begin with.)  So for simplicity's sake, I'm going to give her credit for it.  She deserves it - she's got a house-full of hungry mouths to feed, and somehow she manages to feed them delicious meals on a tight budget and whip up scrumptious treats to give out as Christmas gifts.  She embodies the essence of frugality while maintaining a humorous and generous spirit.

The soup is easy to put together, delicious to eat, and takes some of the stress from days when my schedule is a little too frantic for elaborate dinner prep. (Like, uhh, most days.) I have modified it a tad, and this is my rendition of the original.

Michele's Crockpot Potato Soup

1 32-ounce package frozen hash browns (Southern-style, not shredded)
1 can cheddar cheese soup (I substitute 8-12 ounces of Velveeta, cubed)
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
3 cups chicken broth
1 medium onion, diced and sauteed in a little butter
3 pieces bacon, fried and crumbled (optional)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh chives (optional)
Salt & pepper to taste

This soup is embarrassingly easy to assemble.  You simply plunk all the ingredients in the crockpot - stir it (to the best of your ability, because the frozen potatoes are going to temporarily clump up when that liquid hits them), then stir it a few times while it simmers on low for 3-4 hours.  At the end, you can add some crumbled bacon, diced chives if you want o make it a "loaded" potato soup.  Makes 6-8 servings.

Leftovers will re-heat, but a little more broth and/or milk may be necessary to thin it out to soup consistency after a night in the refrigerator.

Happy soup-ing