Baked Potato Soup
4 pounds russet potatoes
1/4 pound thick sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1/8-inch slices
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
6 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon of ground white or black pepper
2 to 4 tablespoons heavy cream
Grated sharp cheddar cheese
Scrub the potatoes clean and poke them all over with the tines of a fork or paring knife . Place on a foil lined baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F for 1 hour, or until easily cut through with a knife.
Remove and let cool enough to handle. . Heat on medium high until the bacon starts to brown then lower the heat to medium.
Cook until the bacon has rendered most of its fat and the lardons are browned and crispy. Remove the cooked bacon and set aside.
Remove all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat from the pan. (Do not discard bacon fat in your sink, it will clog the drain. Pour the fat into a jar and let it cool and solidify. Then either scoop it out and discard it or use it for another purpose.
Add the chopped onion and celery to the remaining bacon fat in the pot. Cook for 2 minutes on medium high, then lower the heat to low, and cover the pot. Let cook slowly on low heat for 15 to 20 minutes.
When potatoes are cool enough to handle, scoop out the insides to a bowl. Then add it to the cooked onion and celery mixture along with 6 cups chicken stock. Add a teaspoon of kosher salt. Bring the soup to a simmer and reduce the heat to low. Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes into the stock.
Cook the potato soup for about 5 minutes, then use an immersion blender to purée about half of the soup if you want a slightly chunky soup, or purée all of it if you want a smoother soup.
Stir 2 to 4 tablespoons of heavy cream into the soup if you want a creamier soup. Add more salt and pepper to taste.
Pour into bowls and top with grated cheddar, sour cream, chives, and crumbled crispy bacon.