Thursday, August 26, 2010

Vermont Cheddar Bisque or something like it

Yesterday was CSA pick-up day. We received cantaloupe, 1 pound of tomatoes (I picked some small green striped ones), peaches, peppers (sweet and hot), okra (yuck), green beans, and a loaf of bread. And I did not use a single one of these items for dinner. What I did do was make a potato soup using the last of our potatoes. It seemed like a hands-off kind of meal, and after grilling chicken two nights in a row (once for fajitas and once for a pasta dish with a walnut sauce), that was what I needed. The recipe I started with is below. I'm not sure of its exact origin; my mom sent it to me last year and I meant to cook it a few weeks ago when we were overloaded with potatoes but hadn't gotten to it.

Vermont Cheddar Bisque
1.5 C peeled potatoes, cut into ½-in cubes 2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 C low-sodium chicken broth 1.5 C shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
1/4 C unsalted butter 1/4 tsp salt
1 C finely chopped onions Coarsely ground black pepper to taste
3 T all-purpose flour 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1.5 C 2% reduced-fat milk
1. Combine potatoes and broth in a large stockpot. Cover and bring to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are tender, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat.
2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook stirring, until translucent, 6-to-8 minutes. Add flour and cook stirring 2 minute. Stir into potato mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until thickened.
3. Add milk and cook, stirring, about 8 minutes. Do not boil. Remove from heat and stir in mustard and about half the cheese. Stir until melted. Add remaining cheese. Season with salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste.

I already knew there would be at least one substitution. I had a block of horseradish Cheddar cheese, not extra sharp. But, really, that was just the beginning.

First of all, I really hate peeling potatoes, a task that does not fall in the "low maintenance cooking" category. Since I skipped peeling, I decided to skip cutting, too, and just tossed 2 pounds of potatoes (all we had left) into 3 cups of chicken broth (all we had left) and let those babies cook.

Meanwhile, I melted the butter and sliced two small yellow onions and half of a red onion then cooked them in the butter. That's about what the recipe called for. I did not use any flour. I added some garlic near the end.

I'm not sure how long it took to cook the potatoes; I had the burner at about medium and did sit down to read a magazine so I definitely wasn't running around the whole time. I ended up cooking the potatoes for so long to make sure they were soft that even with the lid on the pot most of the chicken broth evaporated or was absorbed by the potatoes. I used a hand masher to mash the potatoes a bit and then added the onions to the potato pot. I then added 1.5 cups of milk, probably 3 teaspoons of Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper to the pot and pulled out the immersion blender.

The potato mixture was very thick, more like mashed potatoes than soup, so I added more milk. Then I mixed in the cheese, which I had grated in the food processor. It was probably around 1.5 cups.

There were little bits of peel still, but the soup was overall thick and creamy. I sprinkled a little extra cheese on top. I wrote a poem before about Frank Lloyd Wright that had a line about the nutrients in a potato skin. Maybe it's a poem about potatoes and not about FLW.

I have no idea what the nutritional value of this meal is, but it feels pretty healthy -- onions, potatoes, spices, 2% milk, and local cheddar cheese. Filling and not bad to make for a late summer day when the temperatures have finally started to get below Unbearably Hot.

[Pictures to follow]

This weekend will definitely involve cantaloupe plus the watermelon we still have. Now what to do with the pears...

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