Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I'm a Foodie, Not a Food Snob

I love food competition shows.  In fact, I tape several each week when they're on...Hell's Kitchen, MasterChef, Next Iron Chef, Top Chef, to name a few.  I love how inventive they are and how quick.  I'm pretty quick myself.  A lady at work called me the Tasmanian Devil today because I move around the restaurant so fast.  I can't help that.  It's in my DNA.

But the thing about all those cooking shows is the incredible palate that the judges have.  One speck too much salt, and the aspiring winner's hopes are dashed.  One drop too much of truffle oil, and the dish is a disaster.  Now, I'm not being judgmental.  I wish my palate was that refined.  But there are a lot of foods I love and a lot of things I'll try.  (I absolutely love Pigs in Blankets, but I can't make crescent rolls or Little Smokies.  I'll buy Pillsbury Crescent Rolls and Hillshire Farm Little Smokies any day.)  So please don't take this as me insulting those people.  I just refer to myself as a "Foodie" to show that I embrace both sides of the spectrum.  And "Food Snob" is just a colloquialism for those people with highly distinguished tastes.

However, there are a few things that I, as a normal person, disagree with in those shows. The judges have eaten at some of the finest tables in the world, but I don't know that they've ever eaten food that you can get in an average grocery store.  Now, I don't typically buy meals in a box or frozen meals, not that there's anything wrong with that.  There are great conveniences and great products out there for people who don't have tangible time to labor over the stove.  But I do think things like frozen raw chicken breasts or vegetables, sliced breads, store-bought mayonnaise, or even pastas in a box are okay.

Which brings me to my next point.  I know there are a bazillion Baked Potato Soup recipes out there, and I'm sure there are many that would rival and even surpass mine.  But mine has a little secret ingredient in it that I think gives it a little richness and a little thickener that gives it a full taste to it.  Now, if you're following the Paleo diet or the Skinny Taste diet or low-carb diets (which I doubt you are given my blog title), avert your eyes.  This portion is not for you.  The secret ingredient...is sliced American cheese.  Yes, I said it.  The addition this tasty household staple gives the soup a body and a saltiness that adds depth to the soup.  Don't like it?  Just leave it out.  I'm okay with your choices.  I forgive you.  Just kidding.  Do what you want!  View my recipes as a guideline, anyway.  I don't really measure or follow recipes.  Just take the parts you like and discard the rest.

The other special part of this soup is roasted garlic.  I love this stuff and I could eat it on toast (actually, I have done that).  Here's a picture of it.

Garlic is a funny creature.  Eaten raw, it's hot and sharp and burns your tongue.  But, when it's roasted, it's mellow and buttery and takes on a whole different flavor.  All you do is take a whole bulb of garlic, cut the top off, drizzle with olive oil, salt and cracked pepper.  Then wrap it with foil and roast at 350 until the cloves are soft, about 30-40 minutes.  When it's cooled, pick the whole thing up and squeeze the cloves out from the fat end.  Simple!

Now, one last thing.  I did make the bread bowls myself.  If you're adventerous, look under the "Breads" tab for my Ciabatta recipe.  I doubled it since I cook for 10 people even though there are only four in my house.  So cut the soup recipe in half if you want.  Buy bread bowls from the bakery section of the grocery store if you don't bake.  Whatever gets dinner on the table for you is great for me.  If you are baking the bread, when it comes to the shaping portion of the recipe, divide the dough into 6-8 equal portions with each about 3 inches across and shape them round.  Continue the last rise from there.

Oh, one more one last thing.  After I fried the bacon, my husband ground some of it in a coffee grinder to sprinkle over the soup in the picture.  Homemade bacon dust.  Amazing!

So there you have it.  I'm a fan of sliced cheese.  I love garlic.  And bacon...and butter.  This dish has it all.  Dinner Time!


12 Russett potatoes
4 bulbs garlic, roasted and squeezed out of the peel
1 quart half and half
2 C heavy cream
1 stick butter
6 C chicken stock
12 slices American cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

6-7 bread bowls (I got 7 out of a double batch of my Ciabatta recipe)
1 lb bacon, diced and fried
Shredded cheddar cheese
Sliced green onions
Sour cream
Homemade bacon dust (if you dare)

Peel and chop the potatoes.  Cover the potatoes with chicken stock and enough water to cover.  Boil until they are tender, about 15-20 minutes.  Drain, reserving the liquid.

In a Dutch oven, melt butter and add in the roasted garlic.  Add in potatoes, half and half, cream, and enough of the reserved liquid to cover the potatoes.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and stir in cheese slices one at a time.  Check for salt and pepper and adjust as necessary. 

To serve, cut around the edges of the bread bowls and hollow them out.  Garnish with cheese, bacon, green onions, bacon dust.

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