The Rainbow Connection:
“You are more likely to find a pot of gold than the end of a rainbow.” –Irish saying
Late fall, about three years ago, I had one of those Stop-In-Your-Tracks experiences. You know, the kind that makes you feel really small in the scheme of things…a humbling, Imagine-World-Peace-Is-Possible kind of moments? It was a grey and chilly day – it had been raining off and on for the better part of it, so I was embracing my inner couch potato, lazily stretched out watching the telley when it started up again – a light drizzle at first, then a few heftier raindrops that cascaded into what sounded like machine gun fire as they landed in a raging torrent on our living room skylights. Having experienced some hellacious Nashville storms (the only thing I don’t miss about Music City), I’m always very wary of potentially dangerous weather conditions, so this really got my attention. Not enough for me to move, but I gave it pause at any rate.
All the sudden, the rain stopped, as if Mother Nature herself had turned off the spigot. It got eerily quiet and the sky became a dark green shade of ominous. At this point, I was getting a little scared because it felt like twister weather, albeit unusual for the mountains, but certainly not an impossibility. From my horizontal view, the eastern exposure was now black and threatening. But the front side of the house was lit up like a Christmas tree, the blazing golden sun streaming through billowy white clouds, burning off patches of fog. This juxtaposition was impressive enough for me to spring from the sofa (okay, roll over and out…happy?) to see what the heck was going on. That’s when I saw it – an unbelievable, double rainbow (that’s two!) spanning the orchard and our photo studio. I dropped the remote and gawked at this stunning sight – one perfectly hued Roy G. Biv crescent on top of another, both so brilliantly bright and each, its seven colors so clearly defined, they looked like some kind of Crayola ad. I half suspected to see a unicorn or an ark somewhere around, it was so magical. Since this was B.C. (before my camera), I rushed to the computer and tried to Skype my husband, whom I found to be offline, not on Facebook either, and me without a vehicle to blow down the drive to his mancave so I could get him to snap a photo of this once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. I knew this moment would be fleeting, so I called my mom instead. You can’t witness something like that and not call someone. That would be a celestial crime, would it not? And, just like that, it vanished. I still stood there, hoping that it would come back for an encore, willing it with all my might to reappear, but alas, this was a moment in time that came and went. Sadly, my rainbow connection was disconnected.
So, I decided to make my own pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! Yukon Gold, that is. Simmered in rich stock with onions and garlic. A splash of cream for a hint of hedonism in this simple, comforting soup. And dressed with all my favorite loaded baked potato toppings: crispy bacon bits, cheddar cheese and some chopped chives. Happiness in a bowl.
Loaded Baked Potato Soup
- 3 slices thick-cut bacon, cut in half
- 1 large onion, peeled and diced
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and medium-diced
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups water
- 2 bay leaves
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat until crispy. Fish out the slices and drain on a paper towel (save to crumble for garnish), leaving the rendered fat in the pot.
- Add in the onion, season with salt and pepper and cook until softened, about 5 minutes, stirring and scraping up any browned bits in the bottom of the pot. Add in the garlic and potatoes and stir to coat with some of the bacon grease. Stir in the stock, water and bay leaves, bring to a low boil and simmer until the potatoes are very tender (almost falling apart), about 20 to 25 minutes. Discard bay leaves.
- Use a potato masher to break up some of the potatoes, leaving some texture in the soup. Stir in the cream and cook until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
…from the Picture-Perfect kitchen:
Planning: If you prefer a completely smooth potato soup, purée in batches in a blender or use an immersion blender right in the pot.
Product Purity: Yukon Golds are my choice for potato soup, but you can substitute russets or another waxy potato. I use organic chicken stock, free of added MSG.
Presentation: Cornbread is a fantastic side for this soup – I like to make individual servings in mini cast iron skillets for a big wow factor. You can find them at kitchen specialty shops.