Oddly, it was Schmambs, not me, that came up with the idea of slightly altering the recipe by adding bacon to the soup. As any sane person would tell you, bacon makes everything better. Am I right? In goes the bacon.
This recipe called for all hands on deck. While the bacon was frying, Schmambs took care of cutting the onion and celery while the kido peeled potatoes and even though I was supposed to be helping with the potatoes, I took pictures. Eventually I had to abandon the camera and take over potato peeling from the kido. She was doing a great job, but we were looking to eat before the new year and tummies were starting to grumble.
The recipe called for two unusual ingredients that had Schmambs and I scratching our heads for a while, contemplating the texture of the final product. Russet and sweet potatoes. Not a fan of the sweet potato, I wasn't sure I was going to like the flavor of the soup. The kido doesn't like "sweet tomatoes" and declared that she wasn't going to have any soup for dinner that night.
With everything sliced and diced, we were finally ready to start building the soup. We cooked the celery and onion in the bacon fat before transferring them into a pot with the potatoes, half and half, chicken broth, water, and bay leaf. When the potatoes became tender, it was time for them to meet their fate with the blender's blades. Schmambs was not equipped with an industrial size blender, so we had to puree the soup in batches. Of course, our first instinct after pureeing the first batch was to taste. Without the cheese or broccoli, I'll be honest...it tasted like a sweet potato puree.
Veggies are not very popular at la Casa de Schmambs. Will eats the occasional greenery, but the kido tries to avoid them at all costs. But there's no getting around your veggies if they're chopped up and mixed in an ooey gooey delicious soup, is there? Especially when the soup is made out of cheese.
With the broccoli thrown in, it was starting to look a lot more like the picture on the magazine cover. Even though the recipe instructed us to cook the broccoli prior to adding it to the soup, we decided to forego that step. The reason is simple. We wanted our soup to look exactly like the soup in the magazine picture and we didn't think the broccoli would hold its shape in the thick soup if it was cooked.
Onto my favorite part. The bacon, of course! Schmambs did a fantastic job at chopping the crispy slices into so many little pieces that I got a little bacon in every spoonful of this soup. I think the bacon even won the kido over who, after tasting the final product, changed her mind about "sweet tomatoes" since she couldn't taste them and asked to have a bowl of soup for dinner. We told her we had figured she'd like it and already had a bowl ready for her. With all the ingredients mixed together, we decided that next time we need to reduce the amount of sweet potatoes since it was still a little too sweet for our liking. However, it was incredibly delicious and truly hit the spot.
While planning the dinner menu one night, we decided that we were going to serve our soup in bread bowls. Everyone else does it. Why should we be any different? So an idea was born. Originally we thought it would be easy to pick a few up pre-made ones from the local grocery store. The store we went to didn't have them. Bummer. Most people would shrug and eat soup from a regular bowl. Oh no. Schmambs and I were determined (and ambitious) to have our soup from a bread bowl. When we explained our quest for bread bowls to the guy working in the bakery, he directed us to pizza dough. He told us we should be able to get the same result. He was right. Thankfully Schmambs has some bread smarts since I would've been clueless otherwise. After proofing the dough, Schmambs brushed some egg wash over the dough to hopefully give it a nice golden color.
We did it! I never doubted Schmambs, but I was impressed that it turned out successful, since there had been some doubtful moments. Clearly you cannot ladle soup into big balls of bread. Something had to be done. Schmambs took control. A little cut here, a little scoop there, voila!
Dinner is served.
Bacon Broccoli Cheddar Soup
adapted from the Broccoli Cheddar Soup from Food Network Magazine
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups half and half
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 bay leaf
2 cups broccoli florets, chopped
salt and pepper
1/3 lb sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 lb bacon
Fry the bacon in a skillet. Once the bacon is done, lay on paper towels to drain excess oil. In the bacon grease left in the skillet, add the onion and celery and cook over medium-high heat until softened. In a large pot, combine the onion and celery with chicken broth, half and half, potatoes, bay leaf, 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt & pepper. Bring contents in the large pot to a boil before reducing the heat to a medium low and simmer until the potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally. Cook Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.
When the potatoes are tender, remove the bay leaf from the soup and transfer the contents of the large pot into the blender. You can repeat this step in small batches if your blender isn't big enough. Simmer the blended mixture in the pot while adding the cheese and stirring until melted.
Ladle soup into bowls and enjoy!