If we're talking about potatoes, I have to tell you guys - baked potatoes are actually pretty far down on my list. If we're at home, mashed potatoes are my go-to. Whether they're simply made with just butter and milk, or if the flavor is punched up with roasted garlic or cheese, I'm all about the creamy texture. When we're eating out and I'm presented with potato options, it's hard for me to pass up french fries. Crispy on the outside and soft inside, they're kind of like potato chips in that I can never eat just one :)
I mostly turn to baked potatoes at home when I want a super low maintenance side. It doesn't get much easier than poking a few holes in the potato and throwing it in the microwave, right? There's even a "baked potato" button on our microwave so it is truly a no-brainer.
My favorite thing about baked potatoes is that you get to load them up with all kinds of amazing toppings, and when I do make them I go all out - bacon, cheese, butter, sour cream, scallions - I think you get the picture. The awesome thing about this recipe is that you get all of those flavors in a big bowl of creamy, comforting soup. Plus it's made in your slow cooker! There's a little bit of prep work involved but it doesn't take long and it adds bacon flavor throughout the soup, which is obviously a very good thing. After trying my first few bites I turned to Shane and declared that this loaded baked potato soup literally tastes like the best mashed potatoes I'd ever had, and I'm pretty sure he agreed. It's thick and creamy with some texture from the potatoes (they're not all pureed completely, though I suppose you could go that route if you'd rather).
My only disappointment is that I waited until winter was nearly over to finally make this soup. It's safe to say it'll be in heavy rotation for the next few weeks :)
Slow Cooker Loaded Baked Potato Soup
from Slow Cooker Revolution
8 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided
3 lb russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
8 oz shredded cheddar cheese, plus extra to garnish
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 scallions, thinly sliced, to garnish
Set a 12-inch skillet over medium heat and add the bacon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is browned and crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and allow to cool slightly, then refrigerate until you're ready to serve the soup.
Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat from the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high, and add the onion, garlic and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes, or until the onions have softened and are golden brown. Sprinkle the flour over the onion mixture and cook for 1 minute (just to cook off the raw flavor). Gradually add 1 cup of the chicken broth to the skillet, whisking to incorporate and scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Once completely incorporated, transfer the onion mixture to the slow cooker.
Stir the remaining 3 cups of chicken broth and the potatoes into the slow cooker as well. Cover and cook on low for about 4 hours, or until the potatoes are fork-tender. Remove 2 cups of the potato mixture to a bowl and mash until smooth. Add the cheddar to the slow cooker, one handful at a time, stirring to fully melt and incorporate. Mix in the heavy cream and the potatoes you mashed. Cover the slow cooker and allow the soup to heat through, about 5 minutes, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
To reheat the bacon: place on a paper towel-lined plate and microwave for about 30 seconds, or until crisp. Serve bowls of the soup garnished with the bacon, extra cheddar and the scallions.