Wintertime in Phoenix is normally shorts and flip-flops weather, but not this year. Thanks to whatever crappy weather phenemenon is currently blanketing Texas in snow and dumping ice on Hotlanta, it's a little bit chilly for us thin-blooded Arizonans. The good news is that it's prime time for hot soup, something we'll all be avoiding in a few months.
I suck at cooking -- or rather, as a Facebook friend pointed out, suck at cooking anything that doesn't come out of a box, bag or kit -- and have resolved to learn to prepare decent meals in 2011. This week, I tackled a recipe for Potato Soup with The Works courtesy of the always smiling, dog-loving daytime diva Rachael Ray. She's a self-taught home cook who takes tons of shortcuts. How hard could it be?
Read on and see me weep...
•8 slices bacon, chopped
•4 leeks, green parts removed and discarded, white parts chopped
•4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
•8 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed from stems
•1 tablespoon paprika, plus additional for garnish
•Salt and freshly ground black pepper
•4 pounds Russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
•1 1/2 quarts chicken stock
•A dash of hot sauce (optional)
•1 cup shredded New York-style cheddar cheese
•1 cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
•Scallions, for garnish
•Sour cream, for garnish (optional)
The Virgin's DeStructions:
Per Rachael Ray's directions, I started by browning the bacon in a large stockpot. OK. How the heck do you dice flabby, fatty slabs of bacon? Every attempt I made resulted in gross looking white strings, so finally I gave up and just shredded the shit with my hands. Good thing bacon tastes awesome no matter what it looks like. I cooked the bacon for about five minutes, until it was golden brown. Soon my bacon was resting on a paper towel to the side, while a puddle of thin brown grease began congealing in the bottom of the pot.
Next step: add leeks and garlic. Wait, I was supposed to chop up all of the veggies BEFORE I started cooking? I suppose anyone with a modicum of practical cooking knowledge would've realized that you need to prepare/chop/dice the ingredients prior to beginning the cooking phase, but then again clearly I am not a person with a modicum of cooking know-how. Lesson learned.
While frantically trying to keep the grease from burning in the bottom of my pot (which I eventually removed from the heat), I diced up the leeks and garlic and started peeling the potato. As I attempted to slide my pitiful $2 Wal-Mart special kitchen knife into a leek, my husband grimaced and braced to dial 9-1-1. My eyes began to water from the leeks and I could hardly see my fingers. "Honey, leeks are related to onions, you know," I heard over my shoulder.
Thanks, Captain Freaking Obvious!
Now back to our recipe in progress. I dumped in the poorly diced leeks and garlic and cooked for about 5 minutes. I tossed in a pinch of pepper and salt, the paprika and a handful of thyme leaves which slid off the stalks remarkably well. No problem.
Next up, add the peeled and chopped potatoes to the pot and bring to a light boil. Uh-oh. Guess it would've been handy to peel and chop those beforehand as well. Again I removed the pot from the heat and hurriedly peeled and chopped some potatoes. Not my favorite task, especially with a cheap-ass peeler and a dull knife that would probably go through a finger better than a raw potato. Ouch.
All caught up, I dumped the diced potatoes and chicken stock into the pot and brought it up to a light boil. Next, you turn the heat down and simmer for ten minutes until the potatoes are cooked through. Time for a taste test. Not bad, but I wished for a creamier texture. I dumped a little milk and cheddar cheese into the pot and all was well. Sorry, Rachael Ray, I know you were trying for a healthier dish, but I like my potato leek soup with a cream base.
"When the potatoes are tender, puree the soup until smooth using a blender, food processor or immersion blender," instructs Ms. Ray. Hmm. The pretty purple blender from my Appliance Graveyard ended up at Goodwill last year, leaving me with a cherry red Margarita/smoothie mixer. Hey, it worked! Everyone loves soup on tap.
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My masterpiece oozed into a bowl, where I topped it with crumbled bacon, cheddar, shredded parm and a dollop of sour cream. I rate this one a success, despite the time setbacks and the eye-watering. Even my picky husband thought it was "Yum-O," based on his cleanly licked bowl.
If you had trouble following the Virgin's DeStructions, get the real ones here.