Hearty Potato Soup with Irish Cheddar & Corned Beef   Recipe
Hearty Potato Soup with Irish Cheddar & Corned Beef

By Wolfgang Puck

Making a Humble Soup Special for Saint Patrick's Day

Potato soup sounds to most people like one of the humblest dishes you could imagine.

After all, throughout the Western world -- from the Americas, where they were indigenous in the ancient cultures of Peru and Chile, to Europe, where they were first brought home by Spanish conquistadors in the middle of the 16th century -- potatoes are a literally down-to-earth staple of so many different cuisines.

One country whose cooking is very closely associated with potatoes is Ireland, where Sir Walter Raleigh first introduced the tubers in 1589.

So it makes perfect and delicious sense to enjoy a bowl of potato soup along with your corned beef and cabbage and green beer this coming St. Patrick's Day, a special time when everyone, even Austrian-born Americans like me, can celebrate their Irish heritage.

But there's nothing humble about my approach to potato soup. I love the rich yet mild, earthy flavor of potatoes, especially the buttery flavored, smooth-textured, moderately starchy yellow-fleshed varieties most commonly known as Yukon Gold, which are available ever more widely today. Using those potatoes (or, if you can't find them, regular Idaho-style baking potatoes) as my main ingredient, I add a complex, aromatic foundation of flavor with chopped leeks, onion, carrot, and garlic, which I first soften in a little butter.

Next, I add some flour, which will help to make the end results thick and smooth, and chicken broth, yielding the base in which I then simmer the diced potatoes to tenderness.

Finally come the steps that transform my potato soup into something truly rich and memorable. First, I stir part of the soup liquid together with some shredded sharp Cheddar cheese. The flour that has already been incorporated into the cooking liquid helps the cheese to blend in flawlessly.

At this point, you could puree the potatoes and other vegetables if you prefer a smooth soup to a chunky one. If you do, though, I recommend pushing the solids through a ricer or a hand-turned food mill; pureeing them in a blender or food processor can yield gummy potatoes.

Finally, a little cream is added to complement and harmonize with all the other flavors. But the special touches don't stop there.

So many bowls of soup make the transition from good to great thanks to their garnishes, and my potato soup is no exception. In addition to using chopped fresh herbs, I'd ordinarily garnish each serving with some crumbled crispy bacon. Not for St. Patrick's Day, though. On this occasion, I love to top each bowl of soup with some corned beef, which you can find ready to use in your best local deli or the supermarket. One spoonful, and you'll swear that you've got the luck of the Irish!

Hearty Potato Soup with Irish Cheddar & Corned Beef Recipe

Serves 6

Recipe Ingredients

    1/4 cup unsalted butter

    2 small leeks, trimmed, slit lengthwise, thoroughly washed, and chopped

    1 large yellow onion, chopped

    1 carrot, peeled and chopped

    1 garlic clove, minced

    1/2 cup all-purpose flour

    6 cups organic store-bought chicken broth

    3 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

    1 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, preferably Irish, shredded

    1/3 teaspoon salt

    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

    1 cup heavy cream

    1/4 pound thinly sliced lean corned beef, chopped

    3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives or scallions

Recipe Preparation

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the chopped leeks, onion, carrot, and garlic. Saute the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until they are glossy and have started to soften, about 5 minutes.

Stirring continuously, sprinkle in the flour. Still stirring, gradually pour in the chicken broth. Add the potatoes. Bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, partially covered, until the potatoes are tender enough to be pierced easily with a table fork, about 15 minutes.

Put the shredded cheese in a large heatproof mixing bowl. Ladle in about a quarter of the hot liquid from the soup and stir with a sturdy wooden spoon until the cheese has completely melted and is fully blended in. Carefully pour the cheese mixture back into the saucepan and stir until fully incorporated.

Stirring continuously, gradually pour in the heavy cream and add the salt and pepper. Continue to heat the soup until it almost reaches the boiling point. Turn off the heat, taste the broth, and adjust the seasonings if necessary with a little more salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into heated bowls. Garnish each serving with the chopped corned beef and the chopped chives or scallions. Serve immediately.

Related: Irish Meets Italian - Saint Patricks Day Recipe: Marinated Lamb Kabobs

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Recipes: "Hearty Potato Soup with Irish Cheddar & Corned Beef "

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