Just like a baked potato, this soup is homey and comforting — just what you want on a chilly day. And, also like a baked potato, it’s all about the toppings. Burrow past the sour cream, bacon, scallions or whatever else you may choose to add to the creamy potato base: It’s no hardship.
Baked Potato Soup
• 6 slices bacon, or 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1 bunch scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced separately
• 4 garlic cloves, minced
• 2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes, large skins reserved
• 6 cups whole milk
• Kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal) and black pepper
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
• 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne
• 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
• 3/4 cup sour cream, plus more for serving
• 3/4 cup freshly grated Cheddar (about 3 ounces), plus more for serving
In a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, cook the bacon (if using) until crisp, 12-13 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate or cutting board. Return the pot with just 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat to the stove. (If there’s not enough fat, supplement with butter to total 3 tablespoons.) If making the soup vegetarian, melt butter in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.
Over medium-low heat, sauté the white parts of the scallions and the garlic until golden brown, 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently and adjusting the heat as necessary to avoid burning the garlic. Add the potatoes, milk and 2 teaspoons salt, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat (resist the urge to heat it faster as this can lead to curdling). Once at a boil, lower the heat and simmer covered until the potatoes are tender, 10-15 minutes.
As soup simmers, prepare the potato skins: Warm the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Working in batches if needed, add the potato peels in a single layer and cook, flipping once, until crisp and golden-brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate or cutting board, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, cayenne and garlic powder. Crumble and set aside.
Once the potatoes are tender, take the pot off the heat, and purée the mixture with an immersion blender if you’d like a smooth soup. (Mash with a potato masher if you’d like a chunkier soup.) Stir in the sour cream and cheese until combined, then season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with crumbled bacon, more sour cream and Cheddar and the green parts of the scallions. Top with potato peels (eat any extra as chips, dipped in ketchup and mustard).
Total time: 30 minutes, serves 4.