Wednesday, July 09, 2008
This is a dish I was raised on from a child. You can eat it any time of year, but because the preparation is so easy it became a summer supper tradition in our family. This is potato soup at its most basic: onion, potatoes and water. (And salt and pepper.) My grandmother used to thicken it with a flour-water paste, but my mother quit doing that ages ago and it does not seem to make one whit of difference. No dairy is required: this is not vichyssoise. The soup has an earthen, potato-ey taste which is quite good. It does need quite a bit of salt, but potatoes generally do. Did I mention it's incredibly cheap to make?
Proportions are as follows: chop one large onion to, maybe, four large potatoes. You can change this ratio based on what you have or what you prefer. Peel the potatoes, halve and slice them. Cover all of the above with water and cook on a low flame for a long time - more than an hour, at any rate. What you want is for the potatoes to go mushy and break down, thus thickening the soup with their starch. If the taters are holding their shape the soup isn't done yet. The onion will disappear, or nearly so, by the time the soup is done. Season generously with salt and fresh ground black pepper.
Serve with fresh hot cornbread, preferably baked in a cast-iron skillet, and a platter of sliced tomatoes, green onions (a.k.a. scallions) and cucumber. Iced tea to drink. If you need to stretch this further serve a platter of deviled eggs as well:
Hard-boil six eggs, cool, peel and slice in half. Sieve or mash the yolks and mix with a dash of white pepper, 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. paprika, one tsp. each of prepared mustard and white vinegar, and 2 tablespoons mayo. Stuff the mixture back into the egg halves and chill. Sprinkle paprika on top. These are, officially, the World's Best Deviled Eggs (and you can ask V., who is not a big fan of eggs generally but loves these).
You can refrigerate leftover soup, but because of its heavy starch content it will resemble wallpaper paste when cold. Do not panic, just add a small amount of water and reheat slowly and it will be fine.