Welcome to another edition of Progressive Eats, our virtual version of a progressive dinner party. This month’s theme is a cozy Weekend Ski Party hosted by Susan Pridmore of The Wimpy Vegetarian. Don’t consider yourself snowed in, consider it a party, even if you are in the middle of the East Coast blizzard! You’ll love all the recipes we’ve come up with that will be perfect for Super Bowl Sunday and all winter long! Make sure you check out the links below the recipe.
I didn’t start skiing until I was in my 20s so I had already developed a healthy skepticism and surety that I would die on the mountain by the time I strapped on skis. It took a lot of courage and practice but eventually I was comfortable on most intermediate runs and could even handle a few of the black diamonds!
I loved the bright sun, tanned faces, and breathing in the fresh crisp air in the middle of winter. In California, many weekends had sunny days with light snow overnight. The snow may have been heavier than Colorado or Wyoming, but it was perfect for us. Tahoe was just four hours away, an easy drive up on Friday night after work. That gave us two days of fun and snow before coming back to reality.
My favorite part of the weekends was spending time with great friends, dancing all night long, and sipping hot chocolate with Schnapps by the fire. Laughter, stories, good friends make the best days. Plus I got to cook for a crowd again, a real treat for me!
Whether it was a huge pot of pasta sauce and spaghetti feed (great for carbo-loading), barbecued chicken, or huge pans of lasagna, everyone was thrilled to come home to a delicious meal that we would whip together. Everyone pitched in and in no time we were all sitting around the big dining table, sharing stories of our day on the slopes, the funny things that had happened, and planning for the next day’s adventures.
If the weather was too cold and snowy, sometimes a few of us would choose to stay in the warm cabin instead of freezing our behinds off. On those days I would make lunch for us while we sat by the fire, sipping on wine and get caught up on all the latest goings-on in our lives. A big pot of soup was the perfect combination of flavors and ingredients to fill hungry bellies and replenish the calories burned during a day of snowball fights, sledding and hiking.
Being the good Irish girl that I am, anything with potatoes goes on my must make list, and loaded baked potatoes are at the top. Filled with melting cheese, butter, bacon, and onions, it is one of my beloved comfort food. It also happens to be a super easy mid-week meal. With the speed of a microwave you can have this meal on the table in less than 30 minutes!
Now, how do I turn that into a soup? Simple – I take my favorite potato-leek soup that The Artist loves, add some ingredients that remind me of the loaded potatoes that were a favorite on our ski weekends, and create a new family favorite. You can use as many or as few toppings as you like, but the combination of the smoky Gouda, crispy bacon, and chopped green onions really makes this taste like a fully loaded baked potato. I love the dimension the smoky cheese gives the soup.
This is potato chowder bumped up and combined with leeks and several other vegetables. Creamy, warm, filling and healthy – your family will beg you to make this for them and the whole house will smell wonderful as it cooks. Nothing says love more than a homemade meal!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
If you can’t find leeks (a very large green onion), you can use mild onions instead. Just simmer longer until they are slightly caramelized to soften their bolder flavor and add a little sweetness to the soup.
Many potato soups have a ton of cream and cheese stirred in and melted. I wanted to make a healthier version, so I cut back on the cream, using pureeing a portion of the soup as the primary thickening agent and limited the cheese to a garnish on top. Feel free to add more if you want it.
Bacon and other processed meats often contain gluten. Applegate brand is all natural, gluten-free, and supports small farmers. They are my favorite brand of cold cuts, salamis and other cured meats. They also see amazing bacon that would be perfect for this soup.
Kitchen Skill: How to Clean Leeks
Cut off and discard the tough dark leaves and slice off the root end leaving as much of the white portion as possible. Cut a slit lengthwise in the leeks from the leaf end to about halfway into the white portion. Fan the leaves while washing under running water to remove grit and dirt. Be careful because leeks tend to trap dirt as they grow.
Cut leeks crosswise into 1/2-inch rings. If you see any dark spots in the rings, set them aside and working under running water, pull them apart – chances are some dirt is trapped between the layers. Rinse well and add to the rest of the leeks.
- 6 to 8 thick slices of bacon,* diced (gluten-free if needed)
- 3 to 4 large leeks, light green and white parts only, trimmed
- 1/2 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 stalks celery, trimmed and finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, stem and seeds discarded, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp canned chopped mild green chiles (optional)
- 1 large clove garlic, smashed, peeled and finely minced
- 2 tsp dried thyme leaves or 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 4 tbsp all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour blend
- 4 cups (1 quart) chicken* stock, divided
- 2 cups water
- 1 tbsp Kosher or fine sea salt
- 4 large Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 2 tbsp sour cream
- 1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup shredded smoked Gouda, Cheddar, or a blend
- Reserved cooked bacon (from above)
- Parsley or cilantro, finely minced
- Finely chopped green onions or chives
- Place the bacon pieces in a large stockpot or Dutch oven and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is crispy.
- While the bacon is cooking, clean the leeks as directed above in the Kitchen Skill. Once cleaned and sliced, rinse again in a colander. Set aside to drain.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Once drained you can chop the pieces smaller if you want. Remove all but 3 tbsp of the bacon fat.
- With the heat still on medium, add the leeks, onions, celery, bell peppers, and the chiles to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the vegetables have softened, sweating them. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for 1 minute longer, stirring often. Sprinkle the flour (or gluten-free flour blend) over the vegetables, stirring until they are evenly coated, scraping any browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Cook for 3 minutes until the raw flour aroma is gone. Do not let the flour brown.
- Slowly whisk in 1 cup of the stock and make sure there are no lumps of flour. Whisk in the remaining stock and water until smooth and stir in the salt. Add the potatoes. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low and gently boil until potatoes are very tender and the soup is slightly thickened, about 20 to 30 minutes. Larger chunks of potatoes will take longer to cook than smaller pieces.
- Transfer about 1/2 cup of the liquid to a bowl and whisk in the sour cream and cream. This make it easier for the sour cream to be integrated into the soup. Set aside.
- Transfer half of the soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Pour back into the pot for a thick creamy soup. This will help thicken the chowder. Stir in the cream-sour cream mixture. Stir until completely incorporated. Taste soup and add salt and pepper to taste. Whisk in the hot sauce if desired.
- Ladle the hot soup into warmed bowls and sprinkle a little of the cheese over the top of each bowl. Top with some of the bacon. Sprinkle the parsley or cilantro and green onions on each bowl and serve hot.
- Yield: 6 to 8 servings
- Leave out the bacon and use 3 tbsp organic olive oil in place of the bacon drippings; instead of chicken stock use vegetable stock.
Create a New Tradition Today!
This recipe is part of our monthly progressive dinner party, #ProgressiveEats. See the links below for more inspiration and great recipes!
Join Us for a Weekend Ski Party!
With Progressive Eats, a theme is chosen each month and the members share recipes suitable for a delicious meal or party. Instead of traveling from house to house, you can hop from blog to blog to check them out. To see our upcoming themes and how you can participate, please check out the schedule at Creative Culinary or contact Barb for more information. We have a core group of 12 bloggers, but we will always need substitutes and if there is enough interest, would consider adding additional groups.
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