Baked Potato Soup

Adapted from @MikeCotton's famous potato soup. Full instructions for that are at the end. This recipe can (and usually should) be halved!)

5 lbs baking potatoes
¾ lbs (3 sticks) butter
1 lb applewood smoked bacon, chopped
1/2 lb sharp cheddar, grated or finely diced
5+ cloves garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
sea salt, black pepper to taste

Optional: Sour cream and chives.

Kitchen needs: a large pot, another pot, and a lot of large prep bowls

Prep

Stab potatoes repeatedly with a fork until they have holes at least every 1/4 inch apart. Coat them with peanut oil and bake them at 450 for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. You can optionally microwave the stabbed potatoes for 8 mins (4 per side) then brush in EVOO and salt and roast for 10-15 mins.

Once potatoes have cooled, cut them in half and scrape the insides into a bowl. Save the skins, which should be tough and chewy.

Place the skins in a small pot and cover with water, simmer for ~45 minutes. Pour off water into a bowl and reserve skins (again).

In a large dutch oven:

Cut bacon in to small pieces and fry in the bottom of a large kettle. remove bacon.

Saute the potatoes along with the garlic, minced in the bacon grease until they are a light golden brown, about 10-15 minutes on medium heat.

Pour the caramelized potato water and potato bits from step 1 over the sauteed potatoes, bring to a simmer

Finely blend the potato skins, add to the soup. Add enough water to get the consistency to where you want it.

Add the cheese and the butter. Add the thyme and reduce the mixture until it's the correct consistancy (thick but not stiff). At the end, salt and pepper to taste eat. Top with bacon bits.

Process for the longer option

Soup Pot Smaller Pot
1 Simmer the skins until the carmelized potato has mostly gone into solution and only the actual skin of the potato remains. This can take up to 45 minutes. Remove the skins and pour the caramelized potato water into a bowl.
2 Put the skins back in the smaller pot with fresh water. Simmer and watch the magic happen. (takes about 3 hours to do properly, but can be done at a boil in one if you don't mind bits of potato skin in your soup.
3 Cut bacon in to small pieces and fry in the bottom of a large kettle. remove bacon. (Simmering potato skins continue)
4 Saute the potatoes along with the garlic, minced in the bacon grease until they are a light golden brown, about 10-15 minutes on medium heat. (Simmering potato skins continue)
5 Pour the caramelized potato water and potato bits from step 1 over the sauteed potatoes (Simmering potato skins continue)
6 Top off the kettle with water, bring to a simmer (When the simmering is done, continue)
7 Pour in the caramelize-potato-skin water. Add the cheese and the butter. Add the thyme and reduce the mixture until it's the correct consistancy (thick but not stiff). At the end, salt and pepper to taste eat. Top with bacon bits.

This (edited for clarity) provides what Mike phrases as "the full-on, best-goddamned-potato-soup-you'll-ever-eat version of the recipe -- which you've probably had only twice."

To dramatically reduce the preparation time, he continues: "The rest of the time you just scrape out the baked potatoes (once they've cooled) and put them in the pot with the water, cheese, butter, bacon, garlic and thyme. Then salt and pepper to taste after it's all cooked down."

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