I am, as I write this, very cozy. With the weather being what it is (cold), it’s the only way to be. Being cozy is related to being warm, but it’s more about being comforted in a warm way. Soup, for example, is cozy. It warms from the inside out, but it also nurtures, satiates, and fills the home with delicious and inviting aromas.
Potatoes are also cozy, and I have been eating a lot of them. I was/am on a big baked Yukon kick, but now I’ve shifted into soup mode with this deeply savory, creamy, and incidentally dairy-free potato and onion soup. (The sour cream on top is not dairy-free, but you can omit it.) This soup has two super-star ingredients: a bag of frozen hash browns, and burnt onions.
The hash browns are a time-saver. The potatoes are already peeled and finely shredded, meaning all you have to do is open the bag and dump them in. The little shreds cook quickly and evenly, and puree with almost too much ease. You can use frozen hash browns in any potato soup you desire—just figure out how much potato the recipe calls for (by mass), then add that amount. (I do encourage you to try this recipe, however. It’s good.)
One of the reasons this recipe is so good is the burnt onions, which bring massive amounts flavor. When blended with all the other ingredients, they don’t taste burnt, but they add a deep, dark, savory note with just a hint of allium-y bitterness, like a slightly overcooked onion ring.
Beyond those two, you’ll just need some garlic, your favorite broth or stock, and some bacon, mostly for the grease. (And you will use all of the grease. As we’ve covered previously, the key to a creamy, dairy-free soup is the inclusion of a good bit of fat.) You’ll notice there’s no dairy, and that wasn’t fully intentional. Though I’m a big fan of making creamy soups without any cream, I fully intended to add a little half & half to this soup—and I even had a little roux prepared—but found it was thick and luscious without it. If you want to make a vegan soup, just omit the bacon and cook the onions in a quarter cup of olive oil.
Creamy Burnt Onion & Potato Soup
6 slices of bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces (or a 1/4 cup of olive oil)
2 small onions or 1 1/2 medium onions, diced (I used yellow, but pick your favorite.)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bag of frozen hash browns (1 pound + 14 ounces)
3 cups of your favorite broth or stock (I used 3 cups of water + 3 teaspoons of Better Than Bouillon Roasted Chicken Base. The No Chicken Base is also good.)
Salt and pepper to taste (This will depend largely on how seasoned your broth/stock is.)
Add the bacon to a large, cold stock pot or Dutch oven and set it over medium heat. Cook until crisp, then remove the bits, leaving behind all of the grease. If you are making a vegan version of this soup, omit the bacon and add 1/4 cup olive oil to the pot.
Add the onions, season with a couple pinches of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally until they are jammy and dark and burnt on the edges, but not incinerated, about 20 minutes to half an hour. They should look like this:
Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about one minute. Add the hash browns, a handful at a time, stirring after each addition. Add the stock and stir aggressively, scraping the bottom of the pot to get all the little burnt bits. Bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are soft and the soup is hot throughout.
Working in batches, puree the soup in a high-powered blender until creamy. Transfer the soup to a big bowl or pot, give it a taste, and season with salt and pepper if needed. Serve with the usual potato soup friends, such as bacon, sour cream, cheese, and chives.
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