Winter conjures memories of my mom's creamy potato soup, with tiny pools of melted butter and black pepper flecks on the surface. It was rich and filling, but also simple and balanced.
That simplicity and balance was front and center as I invented my own take on my mom's recipe. A cache of lemons on my countertop presented the chance to push the envelope. I wanted a soup that was creamy, sure, but also tangy and vivid. My potato soup is every bit as comforting as the recipe I remember, but the hint of zest and generous squeeze of lemon enliven the dish, making for a happy, almost playful soup that pops.
With such a simple list of ingredients, details matter. You’ll want to cook the onions with care, until they’re supple and almost melt into the butter. Then give the same attention to the celery and carrots.
When pureeing the soup, I like to leave a bit of texture. You can do it by either pulsing in a blender (or with an immersion blender) just until the soup is mostly smooth, or by removing the potatoes with a slotted spoon, blending them with a few cups of broth, and then stirring back into the soup.
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Lemon Potato Chowder
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
2 medium stalks celery, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 small Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 cups (1 quart) low-sodium chicken broth
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
3/4 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Fresh parsley leaves, for garnish (optional)
Melt the butter in a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, salt, red pepper flakes and black pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent and very soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the celery, carrot and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes more.
Stir in the potatoes and cook 2 minutes. Add the stock, lemon zest and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the potatoes are fork-tender, 20 minutes.
Remove the bay leaves. Puree the soup in a blender, or with an immersion blender, until it is just smooth but still has a bit of texture. (Or remove the potatoes with a slotted spoon, add to the blender with some of the broth, puree and return to the pot.) Stir in the half-and-half, then the lemon juice. Reheat over low heat until warm. Taste and season with salt or pepper as needed. Ladle into bowls and garnish with parsley if using.
Note: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings.