Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Loaded Baked Potato Soup, Unloaded

Loaded Baked Potato Soup is one of the great comfort foods. Unfortunately, the fat and calories in it are definitely less than comforting. But never fear! I swapped out the deadliest ingredients for fat-free and low-fat versions, resulting in a creamy, comforting cheesy soup with a LOT less fat but still a ton of flavor. This makes a huge pot, but all that cheese won't freeze well, so either cut down the recipe or find hungry friends for the leftovers.
  • 5-6 medium baking potatoes, scrubbed well
  • 8 ounces center cut bacon, diced
  • 1/2 sweet onion, diced
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 7 cups chicken broth or 7 cups water and 3 low-sodium Knorr Chicken stock cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 cups fat free half & half
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup fat free sour cream
  • 1 cup 2% milk mild shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup 2% milk sharp shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3 green onions or several fresh chives
Cook the bacon, in a large pot over medium high heat, until crispy. Drain off all the fat (but don't scrape the pan!) and let the bacon drain on paper towels. Return the pot to the stove and add the onions and shallots. With a wooden spoon, stir well to remove the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Cook for two minutes and add sherry. Cook on high until sherry is almost gone.

While the bacon cooks, dice the scrubbed potatoes into bite sized pieces. I cut each potato in half, lengthwise, and then cut each half in three, and slice those into five or six pieces. After the sherry reduces, add the potatoes and broth (or water and stock cubes), thyme and pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to medium high and let cook 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Whisk together the half and half and the cornstarch.

Take the pot off the heat, but keep the burner on at medium. Add the half & half mixture to the pot and stir well. Gradually stir in the sour cream. Return to the burner, and let cook slowly for a few minutes. When slightly thickened, like a light cream sauce, sprinkle in the cheeses and stir like crazy to melt them throughout. Let soup sit over heat, but do NOT let it bubble. While everything heats together, slice green parts of green onions or chives into tiny pieces and sprinkle over pot. Stir well.

If desired, top each bowl with some extra crispy bacon pieces or bacon bits and shredded cheese.

Note: You could make this even lower in fat by using turkey bacon. Personally, I'd rather have the extra calories, but turkey bacon will work. Also, this can be totally vegetarian by omitting the bacon (or using a soy substitute for it) and swapping the chicken broth for veggie stock.

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