Smoky Blue Cheese Mashed Potato Soup


by Amy of Cooking with Amy

Mashed potatoes are one of my ultimate comfort foods. During the holidays, I would gladly skip turkey or ham for an entrée-sized portion of mashed potatoes and gravy. Leftover mashed potatoes are good for making mashed potato pancakes, but I’ve never found another good use for them, until now. I combined them with sautéed vegetables, chicken broth and bacon, and a sprinkling of Blue cheese, and made the most delicious mashed potato soup ever.

I’m a big believer in keeping a well-stocked pantry. With the right ingredients, I can always make a meal with no last-minute trips to the store. In my pantry, I keep things like onions, garlic, potatoes, cans of tomatoes, chicken broth, pasta and beans. In the freezer, I have bacon, sausages, chicken, green peas and spinach. In the refrigerator, I have celery, carrots, green onions and, of course, milk, eggs and plenty of cheese. The good thing about these ingredients is most of them last for quite a long time. You cannot imagine how many meals I can create with those ingredients alone. Of course, if you have some leftovers, the staple ingredients can turn yesterday’s fare into something new and exciting.

This soup combines many of my pantry staples. Unlike other potato soup recipes, this one has two hits of smoky flavor, the Blue cheese and bacon. It reminds me of sitting around a campfire listening to the crackling embers and eating roasted potatoes. You can use your own leftover mashed potatoes or make up a batch in minutes; either way, it’s a quick and easy recipe you will make again and again.

In addition to finding a use for leftover mashed potatoes, my other inspiration for this soup was a smoke-flavored Blue cheese I discovered this fall in Wisconsin. During a visit to several Wisconsin cheesemakers, I got to try a number of fantastic artisan and specialty cheeses, including a smoke-flavored Blue cheese. This Blue is creamy, crumbly, smoky, and has lots of complex flavors and a real Blue cheese bite. It also has hints of bacon, caramel and roasted nuts. It’s a perfect choice with burgers or salad in the summer, but in the winter, it’s great in soup.

Because the cheese is so strong, a little goes a long way. Melted into soup, it really lends a smoky flavor. I like a little bit of crumbled bacon, smoky Blue cheese and green onions as a garnish to add even more flavor and a bit of texture. It also tips off diners to the ingredients and flavors in the soup. I would serve it with a spinach salad and fresh sourdough French bread, but it also pairs well with sandwiches, and even stands up on its own.

Smoky Blue Cheese Mashed Potato Soup

Serves 4

4 bacon slices
1 medium onion, diced, about 2 cups
2 cloves garlic, minced
Two 14.4-ounce cans low-salt chicken broth or 3 1/2 cups homemade broth
3 cups mashed potatoes (see recipe below)
1/2 cup Blue cheese, crumbled, about 3 ounces

4 scallions, minced
1/4 cup smoke-flavored Blue cheese, crumbled, about 1 1/2 ounces

Cook bacon in heavy, large pot over medium heat until brown and crisp. Transfer bacon to paper towels. Crumble bacon and set aside to use as a garnish.

Spoon off all but a tablespoon of bacon drippings from pot. Add onion, celery and garlic, season with salt.  Sauté over low heat for 10 minutes or until onions are golden, but not brown.  Add chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5-10 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Blend in the mashed potatoes and Blue cheese. Puree soup in batches in a blender or use an immersion blender directly in the pot. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish each bowl with Blue cheese, bacon and scallions just before serving.

Mashed Potatoes
2-3 large potatoes, about 1 1/2 lbs
1/2 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Peel the potatoes and cut into small chunks, place in a pot, cover with cold water. Boil until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain the water, then add the butter and milk and mash with a potato masher in the pot. Season with salt.