Originally created 01/20/99

Sumptuous soup

I call this recipe "perfect potato soup" because it fits perfectly into my family's lifestyle. It's perfectly delicious, perfectly simple to prepare and my perfectly picky children love it.

Potato soup has long been considered simple, inexpensive comfort food. In old-timey recipes, onions were sauteed in butter, cubed potatoes were added, along with some water, and milk was poured in at the end.

That was until the chain restaurants of the eighties began serving "baked potato soup." This popular soup calls for baking potatoes, removing the skin and making a rich soup with traditional baked potato toppings like bacon, shredded cheese and sour cream.

Today's recipe is a cross between the old and the new, made simple by using convenience products.

The soup starts by frying bacon in a large saucepan. The bacon is removed, crumbled and set aside, then onion goes in the bacon fat for a quick saute. Cubed potatoes and water are added and simmer for 15 minutes. Two cans of cream of mushroom soup and milk go in and are heated through. The soup is ladled into bowls then topped with shredded cheddar cheese and the crumbled bacon.

Convenience products like frozen pre-chopped onion and Southern-style hash browns cut the preparation time considerably. Both can be quickly thawed in the microwave or measured out and thawed in the refrigerator while you're at work.

You can slim this soup down by using turkey bacon, low fat cream of mushroom soup and skim milk. If you use the turkey bacon, be sure to add some water or broth to the pan when sauteeing the onions so they don't stick. Low fat sharp cheddar can garnish the soup instead of its higher fat counterpart.

At my house, you'll usually find this soup accompanied by cinnamon muffins. Homemade muffins aren't much of a chore to prepare, but Duncan Hines has a good new cinnamon muffin mix with a pecan crumb topping.

I also like to accompany the soup with a spinach salad tossed with mandarin oranges, sliced mushrooms and sliced green onion, dressed with a sweet and tangy dressing like French or Catalina. And, if you have a picky, non-salad eater like I do, spoon some chilled fruit cocktail onto his or her salad plate. Shortbread cookies and instant chocolate pudding would be a great, kid-pleasing dessert.

Perfect Potato Soup

6 slices bacon (turkey bacon can be substituted)

1 cup chopped onion

4 cups peeled and cubed potatoes or Southern-style hash browns, thawed

2 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

2 10 3/4-ounce cans condensed cream of mushroom soup

2 soup cans milk

1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, fry the bacon until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, crumble and set aside. Add onion to bacon fat and saute until browned, about 5 minutes. Add potatoes and water. Cover pan with lid and cook for 15 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Stir in salt, soup and milk. Heat through, but do not boil.

Ladle into bowls and top each bowl with 1/4 cup shredded cheese and some of the crumbled bacon.

Makes 6 servings.

Karin Calloway is a corporate chef and free-lance writer. You can write her in care of the Newsroom, The Augusta Chronicle, P.O. Box 1928, Augusta, Ga. 30913. Or send her an email to karingca@aol.com.


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