One of the traditions I have maintained through the years is our Christmas Eve menu - Potato Soup. My paternal grandmother was of German descent and I believe this is where it all started in my family. Of course, while growing up our soup was milk based, and I continued that tradition until 1999 when I discovered my own milk allergy!
By this time my kids were all in high school and this soup had been our tradition far too long to change the menu without some real disappointment, so I had to design a new recipe. It took me a few years to settle on this particular recipe. The first time I made it, everyone agreed it was the best one ever! That's a lot coming from my family! I have 1 healthy eater, 1 vegan and 1 carnivore to please, and that's a pretty tall order for anyone to accomplish.
As a child the soup was always pretty basic, had a thin milky broth and was filled with my Dad's favorite food - chunks of potatoes - I swear, he actually LOVED potatoes - and that gene was not lost! All of my kids adore them as well.
As an adult and a chef, I felt compelled to upgrade it a bit, to give it a richer and more restaurant quality appearance and to elevate it by adding lots of topping options - like those you would serve on a baked potato - so my version of potato soup was born . . . Baked Potato Soup!
To make this dairy free version, you need to start by soaking some cashews a few hours (up to overnight) ahead of time. This softens them so that when you blend them the result is a very smooth, thick and creamy base for your soup.
Honestly, this is soooooooo much easier than when I made it with milk and had to carefully thicken with rue!
Since you can customize the toppings to fit your preferences, this soup can remain totally vegan, it can be vegetarian or you can add turkey bacon for your carnivorous diners.
Here's what I like to offer:
- Crispy Fried Leeks - they add pops of intense flavor and a bit of crispy texture to an otherwise creamy soup
- Grated Goat's Milk Cheddar or Gouda Cheese - the sharper the better! The sharp cheese just adds a little bite I adore.
- Cashew or Almond Fetta - this makes the vegan version so much tastier. You can use any vegan cheese variety that you enjoy.
- Snipped Chives - they add so much to the soup, from the color, to a mild and distinctive fresh "oniony" flavor. If you don't have chives you can also use green onion tops.
- Crumbled Turkey Bacon - crisp bacon pieces add so much flavor and texture, it simply wouldn't be the same soup without it!
- Crumbled Tempeh Bac'n - I developed this recipe - which you can find in my cookbook, OMG! That's Allergy Free - especially for my daughter Angela. It is fantastic and the best bacon substitute I've tried.
- I don't eat the pork variety but you could also use that if you like.
- Sour Creme Substitute - recipes for the sheep's milk, goat's milk and cashew options are available in my cookbook. You can also choose your favorite vegan variety.
Here are the step-by-step directions for making this delicious soup . . .
This creme is so decadently smooth and creamy it's even thicker than heavy cream. It's quite versatile and by adjusting the amount of water used in blending, you can create a product with the consistency of whole milk all the way to sour cream. It's delicious in soups, dips and with a little fermentation, it makes excellent vegan cheese!
Yield - 8 cups creme
3 cups raw, unsalted cashews
5 cups pH 9.5 ionized or filtered water
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Early in the day cover cashews with about 6 cups of pH 9.5 ionized or filtered water. Cover and soak at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
Drain well, rinse and add to your VitaMix or other powerful blender with 5 cups pH 9.5 ionized water or filtered water, salt and nutritional yeast. Blend on the highest setting until smooth. Soaked cashews blend easily and produce a very smooth, creamy product. If your creme is too thick, add another cup of water and blend again.
If you are making this ahead of time, refrigerate up to 2 days.
That's all there is to it!
Now that you have the 1st step finished, it's time to move on to the actual soup.
Baked Potato Soup
This soup is so creamy and delicious that you would never guess it is dairy free! In fact it's even better than the dairy filled version.
Yield - 8-10 large servings
3 pounds mixed potatoes, russet, red, white, Yukon gold
2 large leeks
2 medium yellow onions
5 cloves garlic
6 stalks celery
½ bunch flat leaf Italian Parsley
Salt and Pepper
2 tablespoons butter, ghee or olive oil
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
2 quarts Cashew Crème
I really like to use several varieties of potatoes. The starchy varieties like russet and white break down to provide a little thickener, while the waxy varieties like red and Yukon gold provide a creamier consistency.
When using this mix, I peel only the russet potatoes since their skins can a bit tough, and leave the remaining peels in tact to provide bits of color and texture as well as fiber and nutrients.
Chop them into fairly consistent 1/2 inch pieces and drop into water to maintain their color. You can do this a few hours in advance if you like.
Now it's time to prep the leeks. Since leeks tend to have a lot of dirt between the layers, this method (I learned from my daughter Angela) is the easiest way to clean them.
Thinly slice the white and light green portions of the leek. As you progress up the leek, remove the tough, dark outer leaves and set aside.
Drop slices into a large, wide bowl of water.
This method allows the grit and dirt to drop to the bottom of the bowl while the leek slices float! Now carefully remove the leeks from the bowl, taking only the top layer at a time, to avoid stirring up the dirt.
Drain on a kitchen towel.
Thoroughly clean outer leaves and cut into pieces just small enough to fit into your pan. They will add lots of flavor to your potato water and will be easy to remove at the end of your cooking time.
Thinly slice the celery, reserving the tough ends to add to the potato water.
Dice the onion into 1/3 inch pieces and set aside.
Finely chop 1/3 of the Italian Parsley.
Finely chop garlic.
In a large, heavy bottomed stock pot (it should hold at least 1 gallon), heat oil, butter or ghee over medium high heat. Quickly sauté the veggies until soft but not browned. Add a tablespoon or 2 of water if necessary. Remove from pot and set aside.
Drain potatoes, add to pot cover with water, then add salt, leek, remaining parsley and celery pieces. This seems like a lot of salt, but it should taste like sea water. Salting the water flavors the potatoes and most of the salt will be drained away in the water. Bring to a slow boil, cover and cook until the potatoes are soft but not breaking apart too much. About 20 minutes.
Remove the large pieces of leeks and celery, drain potatoes, reserving about 2 cups of cooking liquid so that you can add some back into your soup to achieve the right consistency and it does add a lot of flavor.
Using the back of a spoon, lightly mash about 1/3 of the potatoes a bit. This adds a creaminess to the texture. Then stir in the sautéd veggies.
Now stir in the cashew cream, add a little potato water at a time until the consistency is perfect. Add black pepper and any additional salt to taste. Bring to a very low simmer over low heat.
While your soup is heating, prepare your favorite toppings including these Crispy Leeks . . .
These are delicious additions to soups, veggies and pizza. They are super simple to make and yet they look and taste very impressive!
2 cups prepared leek slices
1/4 cup olive oil
In a heavy bottomed skillet heat oil over medium-high heat. Add well drained leek slices and keep them moving in the pan using a wooden spoon or tongs.
When nicely browned and crisp, drain on a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and serve.
Serve your soup in large warm soup plates or bowls as a simply elegant main course or in small soup cups as an appetizer course. Pass the toppings and allow everyone to customize their own bowl. This soup also works great when served as a casual buffet.
I hope you and your family enjoys this tradition as much as we do!