As rain came down in torrents here in Sebastopol, I made a simple potato, bacon & cabbage soup. Because I had all of the ingredients on hand and also had homemade chicken stock in the freezer, it was so easy, with barely 10 minutes of hands-on work. So far, it has fed us, a family of three, for two meals, with enough for lunch or an after school snack. When I mentioned the soup on my Facebook page, several friends asked for the recipe and so here it is, such as it is.
When I made it, I did not consult a recipe but instead constructed one afterwards. I’ve made potato soup for decades. It is one of my basic recipes, so easy and so flexible that it can be adjusted to what is on hand and even to the season. In the summer, I add fresh tomatoes instead of cabbage and drizzle aioli or pesto over it before serving it. Sometimes I use sautéed kale, chard, radish greens or mixed greens instead of cabbage and sometimes I had 3 or four cooked and sliced sausages and about 8 ounces of cheddar cheese, along with a teaspoon or so of chipotle powder. At times when I’ve been out of stock but desperate for soup, I’ve made it using just water. You can add carrots, sorrel, and even lettuce, too. If using greens, it is a good idea to add a very generous handful–maybe half a bunch–of fresh Italian parsley, which will keep the soup green instead of grey.
The one thing I don’t recommend adding is milk or cream. In this sort of soup, it is unnecessary and actually eclipses the earthy savor of the potatoes.
I think part of the inspiration for this soup on this particular day came from Steve Garner and John Ash. I arrived a bit early for an interview and Steve and John were talking about winter soups, including Colcannon Soup, based on the classic Irish dish of potatoes and cabbage. You’ll find that recipe here. The recipe emphasizes that for best results you must use Kerrygold Butter, which is from Ireland. It’s a great butter but if you happen to have one of Sonoma County’s great butters around, you don’t need to head to the market for this one, as our butters are just as rich and delicious.
Potato, Bacon & Cabbage Soup • Makes 6 to 8 servings
- Olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
- Kosher salt
- 6 ounces, approximately, bacon, in one piece, cubed
- 2 to 2 ½ pounds potatoes, washed and sliced
- 2 to 4 cups homemade chicken stock
- ½ small green cabbage, cored and cut into thin slices
- Black pepper in a mill
- Hawaiian Chile Water, Tapatio, Tabasco or other hot sauce or whole milk yogurt
- Pour enough olive oil into a large soup pot to cover the bottom of the pan with a thin layer. Set over medium heat, add the onion and sauté until soft and fragrant, about 12 minutes; do not let the onion brown. Season lightly with salt.
- Add the bacon and potatoes, along with the chicken stock and enough water to cover the potatoes by 1 to 2 inches. Simmer gently until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes or a bit longer depending on the size of the slices.
- Add the sliced cabbage, stir and cook until it is just tender, about 10 minutes.
- Taste, correct for salt and season with several turns of black pepper.
- At this point, either leave the soup chunky or purée a portion of it using an immersion blender.
- Ladle into soup bowls and serve with one of the condiments alongside.