Baked Potato & Leek Soup with Cheddar & Bacon 

2 medium russet potatoes (about 1/2 lb. each)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups sliced leeks (about 2 medium leeks; white and pale green part only), rinsed well
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups homemade or low-salt canned chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
4 thick slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 cup grated sharp Cheddar (about 1/4 lb.)
2 Tbsp. thinly sliced scallion greens or chives

Heat the oven to 375F. Scrub the potatoes well and pat dry, then pierce all over with a fork. Set them directly on the oven rack and bake until very tender when pierced with a fork, about an hour. Let cool completely on a wire rack.

Melt the butter in a soup pot over med-low heat. Add the leeks and garlic, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the broth and 2 cups of water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until the leeks are very tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the bacon in a skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp, about 8- 10 minutes. Transfer the bacon bits with a slotted spoon to a saucer lined with paper towels to drain and cool.

When the potatoes are cool, cut one of them in half lengthwise. Use a large spoon to scoop the flesh in one piece from each half. Cut the flesh into 1/2-inch cubes and set aside. Coarsely chop the potato skin and the entire remaining potato and add to the pot with the leeks. Puree the contents of the pot in a blender until very smooth (you'll need to work in two batches). Return the pureed soup to a clean soup pot and reheat over medium low. Whisk together the milk and sour cream until smooth and then whisk this into the soup along with 1/2 cup of the Cheddar. Stir in the diced potato. The soup should be fairly thick, but if it seems too thick, thin it with a little water or more stock. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with the remaining Cheddar, the bacon bits and the scallions or chives.

About 6 cups, serves 4.

Source of recipe: Fine Cooking #57
photo: Scott Phillips

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