Potato Soup of Thriftiness

1761Today’s Soup & Stories post comes from the kitchen of Leila Marie Lawler who blogs at Like Mother, Like Daughter, one of the most beautiful and spiritually refreshing blogs I frequent. From home educating, to cooking, to mothering, to living the liturgy, the words Leila and team share over there strengthen and encourage me to live my vocation well. Speaking of living the liturgy, Leila’s new book, The Little Oratory: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying in the Home co-authored by David Clayton, is now available for preorder here. The thumbnail to the left is the cover of their book. It looks like a terrific resource, and I’ve already ordered mine!

Today Leila shares her recipe for Potato Soup of Thriftiness. Like the advice shared at her blog, the recipe is practical and adaptable. Read on, cook on!

DSC_0031This recipe is for a potato soup that everyone will love. It’s comforting and filling and oh, so tasty. It doesn’t sound very Lenten, what with the bacon and all, but read right on and you will see that it can be.

When you are on a journey to live on one income while raising a numerous family, you meet wonderful people to share the adventure with. An encouraging and thrifty friend told me about this soup and gave me the recipe. This was long ago. It instantly went in the rotation and has remained there ever since. Even the smallest toddler loves it, and you almost always have what you need to make it.

It’s also the basis for other kinds of chowder. If you add clams at the end, substituting the clam juice for the broths in the cooking, you will have a delicious Boston clam chowder. If you add corn, corn chowder. Chowder is the style — starting with bacon fat and onions and thickening with flour, then adding milk. So once you know this recipe, you can be really creative and add other soups to your repertoire without really working too hard.

I highly recommend keeping your eye out at sales for really pretty and sturdy soup bowls. When my kids were growing and I needed to convince them that soup is indeed a satisfying and delicious meal, I realized that having the right bowls was going to be key. The kind in the picture, with a rim like a plate, went a long way with my teenagers to making even the most humble potato soup seem princely and satisfying. I found 16 of them at an outlet. They were $2 each. Since I also really love the color, I looked on it as an investment, and so it has proved.

Another kind of soup bowl that a family will find useful is the smaller, more upright sort (smaller certainly than a cereal bowl) that leaves room for a sandwich on the plate. Soup and a sandwich — a great meal!

Potato Soup of Thriftiness from Leila Marie Lawler (download and print recipe here)

Serves 8 or more, depending

Bacon fat with or without its bacon
2 large Onions
2 large stalks Celery
Beef and/or chicken stock (2 qts total)
Milk (1 qt)
6 lbs red potatoes
Garlic powder
¼ cup sour cream
Dried chives
Dried parsley

Cook some bacon at some point. You can cut into small pieces before cooking, or crumble up slices after. If you are using bacon in the soup, reserve the crumbled pieces where others — and you — won’t gobble them up.

You can use bacon fat from a previous batch (say, from Sunday) that you’ve stored in a clean glass jar in the fridge, and just not have bacon in the soup itself (this qualifies as meatless for Fridays — it really does). If you aren’t going meatless, even a tiny amount — say, two slices squirreled away from Sunday breakfast — of bacon crumbled in at the end makes this soup seem like a treat, but they will love it either way.

Cook a bunch of sliced onions and finely chopped celery in 1/4 to 1/3 cup of bacon grease. Two big onions for a big pot of soup. Two or more big stalks of celery.

Add enough flour to make a roux. If you had about 1/3 cup of fat, you will need a 1/2 cup of flour. Cook gently for a few minutes, stirring with your whisk (I use a flat whisk to get in the corners of the pot).

Add chicken stock and/or beef stock. For soup in an 8-qt pot, add 1 1/2 quarts (large can) chicken stock and ½ quart (small can) beef stock. However, this is flexible. All beef might be too rich. Add about a quart of milk. Stir this all up, whisking the liquids slowly into the roux to avoid lumps (this way you don’t have to heat the liquid first). Add 1 tbsp garlic powder, 2 tsp. salt, and a few grindings of pepper. Dried chives would be good too.

Add a bunch of red potatoes. For a big pot, use about 6 lbs potatoes. You can leave skin on — this is both easier and a bit more colorful. Cut into quarters and then slice, not too thin. The slices will disintegrate as the soup gets well done, so don’t make the pieces too small or you will end up with mashed potato soup. But slices have a nicer texture than cubes.

You have to stir often as the soup simmers, as the potatoes tend to stick. If it’s getting too thick as the potatoes cook, add more stock or milk. If in the end it doesn’t seem quite thick enough, mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch into the sour cream before you add it. But remember that the potatoes will continue to thicken as they get more cooked.

Simmer gently on medium heat until potatoes are done. Add some sour cream, 1/4 cup or more, to taste. Before serving, stir in the bacon bits if you are using them and a little chopped parsley or chives if you have it.

Serve with cornbread or muffins for a hearty, soul-satisfying meal.

Read other Soup & Stories posts here.

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  1. Allison says

    I have a Lenten question about this soup. Our parish church is hosting soup and stations on Fridays during Lent, and per one of your (Leila) previous posts we (kids and I) went to do the stations. My question involves the use of the meat broth in the soup, I was told by someone there that meat broth was “cheating”. I personally didn’t think so since I feel that broth is more essence of meat rather then, well, actual meat. Would love to hear your thoughts on that.

  2. says

    Allison, technically, the “products of meat” such as the broth and the fats are not breaking the abstinence. During the rest of the year I go ahead with this kind of soup on Fridays. During Lent, I might make it a clam chowder and use fish broth (although I still may use the bacon fat, just not the chicken broth), or serve this soup during the week and add the bacon bits in as well. Here is the page from the Bishops’ website for your perusal: http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-resources/lent/questions-and-answers-about-lent.cfm

    It’s the kind of thing that could work in the family (to keep to the technicality of the thing), but maybe for the parish it is best to keep it completely meat free.


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