This is one of those recipes I thought way too much about previously. If you search on Pinterest for potato cream soup, you will get all kinds of amazing recipes with the most ridiculous additions. Creative, yes…but they made my potato soup all about the pizazz and less about the potatoes. It didn’t help that I knew nothing about potato types, and having just moved to a potato-wonderland Germany, the first thing I had to do was get some basic guidelines of what I was buying at the supermarket. Being the staple food that they are here, the many German varieties make it essential to know the right type of potato for your particular purpose.
I learned that there are two main categories potatoes fall into: starchy and waxy. Starchy potatoes (Idaho, Russet, Katahdin) are high in starch and low in moisture; this means that they’re fluffy and great for boiling, baking and frying, but they should be avoided in casseroles, gratins, & potato salads since they don’t hold their shape well – think MUSH. Waxy potatoes (Red Bliss, New Potatoes, Purple Peruvian, Inca Gold, Adirondack Blue & Red, Fingerling, Carola, Rose Gold, Purple Viking) have a lower starch content and are characterized by a creamy, firm flesh that holds its shape well after cooking: great for roasting, boiling, casseroles, & salads. There is also an all-purpose variety, like the Yukon Gold, which have a medium starch content and can be used for many a recipe. Unfortunately, depending on where you are in the world, potatoes are categorized differently: in the United States it seems to be done by color, in the UK by how waxy they are; so that means you basically have to know your way around the potato aisle in your own little corner of the world.
Here in Germany, potatoes are also categorized according to the time they are harvested – very early, early, medium-early, medium-late or late (imagine that!). Early potatoes for example are planted in winter and harvested in spring, which means they can only be bought from April to July. They hold their skins and shape well, making them perfect for the traditional summer-grilling potato salad Germans love and which I will be surely making in these hot summer days. However, potatoes are also classified as mentioned above: starch & dry or waxy & firm; and to my luck, they are labelled accordingly at the supermarket: Festkochende potatoes (labelled in green; Annabelle, Agata, Charlotte, Kipfler, Marabel, Linda, Princess, Pink Fir Apple), are great for frying and salads. Vorwiegend festkochende potatoes (labelled in red; Bolero, Christa, Désirée, Finka, Gala, Hela, Maja, Saskia) are the all-purpose variety great to use for different dishes. Mehlig kochende potatoes (labelled in blue; Adretta, Aula, Freya, Guna, Karat, Libana, Lipsi, Melina, Naturella) are the starchiest, good at absorbing liquids and make for the perfect baking potato. A special shout-out to the fabulous www.asausagehastwo.com, for her great article that taught me how to buy potatoes in Germany!
So, now we almost have a degree in potato types – in writing, at least! After learning all these simple, yet recipe-determining details, I can now feel a little more sure of what type of potato will work best for any particular dish. With that, I decided to prepare this all-traditional baked potato soup from my beloved ‘Joy of Cooking’ book. The recipe was so simple that it actually made me wonder if it wasn’t going to turn out to be a rather lame dinner idea. To our surprise, with the help of some salami & guacamole on rye, it turned out to be a really delicious & satisfying meal!
For the Soup
- 3 tablespoons of butter
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 5 cups of peeled and cubed baked potatoes
- 6 cups of vegetable stock
- 1-1/2 cups of heavy cream
- 1/2 cup of sour cream
- Salt & pepper
Set your potatoes on a baking dish, and rub with olive oil and salt. Bake until done, and let cool. Heat the butter in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring until soft. Add the potatoes with the vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Heat through without boiling, stirring occasionally in order to mush the potatoes entirely, but do not whip or else the consistency will change into a gluten-activated paste. Add the creams and simmer for a bit longer. Serve garnished with any of the following toppings: bacon, chives, cheese, or crème fraîche.