Baked Potato Soup

fullsizeoutput_1751I have mentioned I began blogging my recipes for my children so they will not be in the same predicament I found myself in after my mother passed away; I didn’t have written recipes for the comfort foods I enjoyed growing up.

I started by creating a database which I pulled up the other day and started to browse.The earliest entry in the database is September of 2004. A lot of the recipes have made their way to this blog over the past five and a half years. I was surprised to come across this recipe for one of my favorite soups. It was entered into the database ten years ago in October of 2006. It has to have been at least six or seven years since I made it which surprises me because it is one of my favorite soups.

Here is my recipe for Baked Potato Soup. It is wonderfully creamy, cheesy, and full of bacon flavor. I know my daughter Elizabeth used to love this soup; she loves potatoes. I may need to make it vegetarian sometime by using my “facon” in place of bacon for her. “Facon” is a bacon substitute using shiitake mushrooms. I’m also experimenting with a thinly sliced Japanese eggplant for “facon.” But that’s another blog post.

Here is what I did:

Baked Potato Soup

Ingredients

3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
8 cups milk
4 to 6 large baking potatoes, baked, cooled, peeled and cubed, about 4 cups
6 green onions, thinly sliced; reserve greens from two green onions for garnish
1 pound bacon, cooked, drained, and crumbled; divided and reserving 1/4 cup for garnish
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 1/2 cups shredded mild cheddar cheese; reserving 1/2 cup for garnish

Directions

Melt the butter in a large stockpot over medium heat. Stir in flour until smooth and bubbly and takes on a nutty aroma; about 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly, and cook until sauce just begins to thicken; about 15 to 20 minutes. Add potatoes and onions. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until soup begins to bubble. Reduce heat to low and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add approximately three-quarters of the bacon, sour cream, salt, and pepper. Check seasoning of soup. You may need to add additional salt and pepper depending on the saltiness of the bacon. Return to simmer and then stir in cheese and cook until cheese is melted.

Garnish with small amount of cheese, bacon and green onion tops in this order. Serve baked potato soup immediately.

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Bacon Weaved Roasted Brussels Sprouts Skewers

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A lot of people claim they do not like Brussels spouts because they are bitter; that may very well be true. Brussels sprouts do contain a compound some perceive as bitter because of genetics – much like the asparagus, cilantro, arugula, and others. Another reason some taste bitterness in Brussels sprouts is because of the preparation – they are boiled or steamed.

It turns out the bitter compounds in Brussels sprouts are broken down when cooked at a much higher heat than boiling or steaming can achieve. Roasting at temperatures above 375°F will give you that result. Roasting will also cause caramelization which creates some sweetness and helps balance any remaining bitter notes.

But really – Brussels sprouts and bacon? Not much else to say here except “More please!”

Bacon Weaved Brussels Sprouts 

Ingredients

8 slices thick cut bacon
32 Brussels sprouts of similar size
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
8 wooden or metal skewers (See note)

Directions

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Cook the bacon in a large cast iron skillet until it shows just a hint of browning but is still soft and pliable. Overcooking the bacon will make it impossible to weave onto the skewer. Remove the bacon from the pan and set it aside. Drain most of the bacon grease from the pan saving it for another use. A thin coating of bacon grease should remain in the pan.

Trim the brussels sprouts and remove the outermost leaves. Add the sprouts to the skillet, shake the skillet to lightly coat the sprouts, and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until sprouts are beginning to brown or for about 15 to 20 minutes. You do not want to completely roast the sprouts at this time. They will be roasted further when skewered.

Assemble the skewers by threading 1 end of the bacon onto the end of a skewer. Add a sprout and weave the bacon around the sprout and back through the skewer. Add a second sprout and once again thread the bacon around and through the skewer. Repeat this until you have 4 or 5 sprouts on the skewer each time moving the bacon and the sprout down the skewer. Allow at least 1 inch of skewer to extend beyond the last sprout or end of bacon.

Arrange the skewers on a baking sheet and bake the skewers for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the bacon is fully cooked.

Note: I prefer to use wooden skewers. Wooden skewers will need to be soaked for several hours to help prevent them from burning. Covering the exposed wood with foil will also help prevent them from burning. Another reason to soak the skewers is to help with skewering the food and to help the food slide off after it is cooked.

There’s an app for that: Angels on Horseback

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I love oysters. I love the salty brininess they bring to food so much that I will order them almost every time I see them on a menu except during the summer months. Yes, I follow the “R” rule and only eat oysters during months containing the letter “R.” I am told this rule no longer applies but old habits die hard.

Oysters also remind me of Christmas and my father. One family tradition while growing up was to have oyster stew on Christmas Eve after coming home from Mass and prior to opening presents. A week later, I would tag along with my father on New Year’s Day when he would go up town to the local taverns to eat raw oysters. It is because of this that I often times associate oysters with the holidays.

The following recipe is a bit of twist on the classic hors d’oeuvre Angels on Horseback. Angels on Horseback are simply shucked oysters wrapped in bacon, skewered and then baked in an oven or grilled. They are often times served on toast.

In my revision of the classic hors d’oeuvre, I first fry the bacon crisp and then use the same pan to sauté the oysters in butter, white wine, and the liquor from the oysters along with scallions and garlic. I then serve them on toast points.

Here is what I do:

Ingredients

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons finely chopped garlic
Baguette cut on the bias into 1″ thick slices
10 Slices bacon cut into thirds
3 Scallions, finely chopped
¼ Cup white wine
2 teaspoons lemon juice, plus wedges for serving
8 to 12 oysters, shucked, with juices reserved or ½ pint shucked oysters
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Roughly chopped parsley for garnish

Directions

Heat oven to 400° F. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in microwavable bowl. Brush baguette slices with the butter and arrange on a baking sheet. Bake about 10 minutes or until lightly toasted then set aside.

While baguette is toasting, cook bacon in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat until crispy. Transfer bacon plate lined with paper towels to drain and set aside. Drain bacon grease from pan but do not wipe pan. (Bacon grease can be used for another use.) Melt remaining butter in the skillet and then add the garlic and scallions. Cook garlic and scallions until soft; about 3 minutes. Add wine, lemon juice, and oysters with their juices. Season with salt and pepper. Cook about three minutes until oysters begin to curl at the edges. Using a slotted spoon, transfer oysters to a bowl and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Continue to cook sauce until thickened and reduced by half. Spoon sauce, dividing evenly, over toast points. Top each point with an oyster and two or three reserved bacon pieces. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.

There’s an app for that: Candied Bacon

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I am always looking for great appetizers that are easy and crowd pleasing. This recipe for candied bacon fits the bill. Make sure you use a thick-cut, good quality bacon and real 100% maple syrup. Do not use pancake syrup which is maple flavored, high fructose corn syrup.

As I said, this recipe is so easy. It only take about five minutes of prep time and 30 to 45 minutes of cook time.

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Ingredients

1 pound good quality bacon, sliced
2 Tablespoons 100% pure maple syrup (Do not use pancake syrup.)
¼ Cup brown sugar
2 Teaspoons Dijon mustard
½ Teaspoon Kosher salt
¼ Teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350° F.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and top with a wire rack. Mix the maple syrup, brown sugar, Dijon mustard, Kosher salt, and cayenne pepper in a large bowl. Add the bacon to the bowl and toss gently with your hands making sure that all of the slices are evenly coated. Place the bacon in a single layer onto the wire rack. Bake in the center of the oven for about 20 minutes. The bacon will be a bit brown, but will most likely need to bake for another 10-20 minutes depending on thickness. It should look slightly dark and crispy but not burnt. If you take it out too soon, the texture will be chewy. Patience is certainly a virtue with this.

Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes on the rack. Don’t let them sit too long or else they will stick. Once cool enough to handle, you can break the bacon into chards or cut roughly into thirds. You’ll have about 30 pieces. You can leave them whole if you would like.

Serve at room temperature.

Cheddar Ale Soup

Cold, rainy days are perfect for warm, hearty soups. One of my favorites is cheddar ale made with a nice hoppy brew. If I would have had some pretzel bread, I would have made bread bowls and served this soup in a pretzel bread bowl. Cheese, beer, pretzels and bacon… the four basic food groups!

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

4 slices bacon
4 tablespoons salted butter
½ cup minced onion
½ cup minced carrot
½ cup minced celery
1 small bay leaf
1/3 cup All-Purpose Flour (I use King Arthur Unbleached.)
1 (12-ounce) bottle ale (I used Schlafly Dry Hopped APA.)
2 cups half-and-half
1 (14-ounce) can chicken broth
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 pound Sharp Cheddar, grated (about 4 cups)
Salt and ground black pepper to taste.

Directions

1. In skillet, cook bacon until crisp; crumble and set aside.

2. In large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter; add onion, carrot, celery and bay leaf and cook, stirring often, until vegetables are translucent and softened, about 4 minutes.

3. Stir in flour and cook, stirring, about 3 minutes longer.

4. Gradually whisk in ale and chicken broth; stirring until mixture is bubbling and thickened.

5. Remove bay leaf and transfer to blender. Purée until smooth. Return to pan and add dry mustard and cream. Bring soup to simmer, stirring often so it doesn’t scorch on bottom of pan.

6. Add cheese a handful at a time; stir until cheese is melted and soup is hot, but do not let soup boil. Remove from heat, remove and season with salt and pepper to taste.

7. Serve topped with crumbled bacon.

A Simple Summer Supper: Classic BLT and Grilled Iowa Sweet Corn

I love this time of year when the first of the tomatoes start coming on. My mouth begins to water for those red jewels of summer. Meals get more simple yet somehow more satisfying. For instance, tonight was a classic bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich along with fresh-picked, grilled Iowa sweet corn. Feel free to add other items to you BLT. One thing I like to add is a couple slices of avocado turning an BLT into a BLAT.

Classic Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato (BLT)

Ingredients

4 slices Applewood smoked bacon
2 slices good, hearty whole-grain bread
slices of fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes
Romaine lettuce
Real mayonnaise

Directions

Fry the bacon to your desired crispness. Meanwhile, toast the bread. Assemble the sandwich. I prefer this order: slice of toast, mayonnaise, lettuce, bacon, tomato, and finally the second piece of toast. Doing this prevents two slippery items like the lettuce and tomato from being directly next to one another which can lead to a very messy sandwich.

Grilled Corn Recipe

Ingredients

sweet corn with husks on
softened butter
chili powder
coarse salt and black pepper

Instructions

Pull back the corn husks and remove as much of the silk as possible. Don’t worry about getting it all. What remains will typically burn off on the grill. Rub each ear of the corn with softened butter and then sprinkle each ear with salt, pepper and chili powder. I like to mix the three ingredients together prior to sprinkling it on the ears. Pull husks back to cover ears of corn. Grill the corn until they browned all over, turning as needed. The husks will typically become charred. Remove the corn from the grill, husk the corn, and serve at once.

This is the perfect summer supper in my opinion. Enjoy!