This recipe comes with a good story, not a flattering one, but an important one. When I was dating my husband (and still wanting terribly to impress his mother and family), I offered to make this soup for them. They were wondering what to have for dinner one night and for some reason, I said, “Hey I can make a cheesy potato soup that is SO delicious.” They took me up on the offer.
I called my mom and asked for the recipe. I wrote down all the ingredients. She then started in on the method and I said, “Oh, I don’t need that.” She asked if I was sure, then hung up when I told her I was.
I peeled the potatoes, chopped the onion, shredded the cheese, measured out the milk, butter and flour and got a pot of water boiling. I added the potatoes to the water and then dumped the rest of the ingredients in as well. Soup is just a big pot of stuff right?
I stirred and stirred but everything was not coming together smoothly like it should be. I didn’t want to say anything, so I just kept stirring. Finally, I admitted defeat and said, “something isn’t right.” I’m sure I blamed the quality of their potatoes.
I ended up with a huge blob of cheese stuck to the potatoes in a big pot of water with onions floating on the top. My now in-laws ordered pizza. They joked good naturedly about the how great the soup (pizza) was. I was so embarrassed!! It was the first time I realized that the method in a recipe actually matters. Heretofore I believed you just mixed everything together.
I was comforted when I learned later that my Mother-in-law had never been a great cook. She had once boiled water in preparation of making Kool-Aid. I felt a little better. Lucky for everyone, I have come a long way. And apparently, ability to cook was not high up on my husband’s “requirements for a wife” list because he still married me. And boy, did he ever luck out.
This is a recipe my family has been making pretty much forever. It came from an old cookbook, I’m not sure what it was called. I’ve modified this one from the original which I think has improved it quite a bit.
One important step that often gets left out, that, in my opinion, really helps with the development of flavor is how you treat the roux (as in I “rue” the day when captain kanga”roo” forgets how to make a roux.) A roux is a thickening compound made of flour and butter. When you add the flour to the butter you can technically move along as soon as they are well combined. But if you let it cook for a while, the flavor will improve vastly.
Do you see in this photo how the flour isn’t white anymore? It has started to turn a “blonde” color. This is what you are after. Even a little darker is great. But you must be careful to do it slowly. This took about 7 minutes on a medium-low heat. If you do it quickly, it is a technique known as “burning” it. Be patient padawan learner. Once the roux is blonde, you can add the liquid. The liquid must come to a simmer before its thickening power will be in full force.
The paprika will help lend a deeper orange color, but won’t affect the flavor too much.
If you choose to make this recipe, and I hope you do, please remember to read AND follow the instructions. Thank you and good day.