Sunday, February 5, 2012

Potato Soup

It has been a while since I have gotten Will in the kitchen with me.  With school and extracurricular activities there isn't as much time available and when the choice is between cooking and Wii, Wii will always win.  He says cooking is his favorite thing to do and he wants to be a chef when he grows up, but it is still hard to get him in the kitchen.

To help get him and the girls, in the kitchen a little more often I have started having a sous chef of the week.  Each week one of the kids is the special assistant.  They get to help plan the menu and the two of us go shopping together.  Going to the grocery store may not sound very special, but when it is just the two of us and they get to choose a special item to cook with it is a lot more enjoyable than being dragged to the store with your siblings and a grumpy mom. The sous chef has to help prepare one meal and can make a fun treat.  By being the assistant every three weeks they get to help and have additional responsibilities, but it is not so much that they get bored or feel like it is a chore.

For our inaugural week, Will was the sous chef and not surprisingly he chose to make soup for his meal.  Since he first started in the kitchen with me my boy has loved making soups and salads.  He wasn't sure what kind of soup he wanted, so I suggested potato soup - mainly because I had potatoes that needed to be used up before a garden began growing in the pantry.

Soups are a great meal for beginner chefs and for kids who are a little more experienced and want to try to prepare a meal by himself.  They provide lots of practice chopping and are a great way to introduce a  variety of different ingredients.  Granted potato soup doesn't introduce a lot different ingredients, but it is great for working on those cutting skills.  And potatoes are good for kids who have had some practice cutting and are ready to move to a sharper knife and beyond super soft foods.  Will is very comfortable using a knife, but I still make sure I cut the item, making a flat surface before he begins cutting it up.

I also like soups because they are good for those little cooks who start off super interested, then become distracted, then become super interested.  Will got 2 potatoes diced then lost interest, but rejoined once the immersion blender came out, who can resist the immersion blender.  We did learn a valuable lesson - pulling the blender out, while on causes the soup to fly, which is cool to see, unless it lands on skin, then it burns, which isn't so cool.  So, if you do use the blender with kids remind them to be careful.

I had Will write his recipe when we were done and this will be added to our sous chef cookbook.  He thoughtfully didn't add bacon since his dad is allergic to pork, but potato soup really is much better with a little bacon fat.

Potato Soup

4 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup whole milk
1 (12-ounce) bottle light-bodied beer
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 cups grated extra-sharp Cheddar (about 8 ounces)

In large pot melt butter.  Add onion, carrots, celery and garlic, saute until vegetables are soft.   Add flour to vegetables and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Slowly whisk in chicken stock, then add milk and beer.  Add potatoes, bring liquids to a boil, once at a boil reduce heat and simmer until potatoes become soft.

Remove from heat.  Using an immersion blender puree until smooth.  Return to soup to stove, over low heat slowly stir in the cheese until melted. To serve top with sour cream, bacon, chives, additional grated cheese, or your favorite topping.