Kat in the Kitchen: Creamy Baked Potato Soup like Panera's

When Chris was working his first job when we were dating, he brought lunch to a lot of the doctor offices that he visited. The most requested source of food was Panera. Chris got to take home any leftovers so his bachelor-with-no-interest-in-cooking diet consisted of cereal, yogurt, chips, salsa, Cinnamon Crunch bagels, Bacon Turkey Bravo sandwiches, Roast Beef Asiago sandwiches, black bean soup and their perfect potato soup. 

Now that we don't get his free Panera goodies, we can't eat out all the time and we are a bit delusional and think that fifteen minutes to drive to the closest Panera is like driving to the opposite end of the country, I've been making potato soup at home. I probably make this soup a little too much. Basically, if you are coming over for dinner or if you recently had a baby, I make potato soup.

Ryan calls it de-wicious, but he also says that both water and plain flour are de-wicious so you might need to take his affirmation with a grain of much needed salt, and take the praise from Chris who is more frugal with the use of the word delicious as a reliable review. 

Creamy Baked Potato Soup

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

2 Tbs butter or oil 

5 lbs potatoes chopped into half-inch pieces (I normally use whatever potatoes are on sale, but if I am making it for someone, I use red potatoes).

8 cups chicken broth (sometimes if I don't have enough chicken broth, I use what I have and add water to make up for the amount missing. Then I add salt and pepper).

1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

2 8 oz. blocks of cream cheese at room temperature; you could also use plain Greek yogurt, but there will be more of a tangy flavor than creamy.

Optional toppings: bacon, chopped green onions, cheese, chopped spinach (how I sneak more vegetables into Ryan) steamed and chopped carrots. 

1. Peel the potatoes. I leave some of the skin on to give the soup some more flavor and texture. Chop the potatoes, onion and garlic. 

2. Saute onion and garlic in butter or oil in a large pot until caramelized and softened.

3. Add the chopped potatoes to the pot. Cook for a minute, stirring often.

4. Add the chicken broth and cayenne pepper and bring to a boil.

5. Boil until potatoes are fully cooked and tender. 

6. Mash the soup to make the potato pieces smaller and to release some their starches to act as a thickener. 

7. Reduced to low heat and add cream cheese. 

8. Stir until it is melted and creamy. 

9. Enjoy with bacon and chopped green onions. 

Are you a big soup person? Or a Panera fan?