We cooked the bacon in our soup pot, leaving the fat behind to sauté our celery and onion. Then we crumbled the cooked bacon on top at the end. It adds a nice, salty depth of flavor that we love, but of course if you are a vegetarian or just want a simpler soup, you could leave it out or sub in some smoked paprika.
4 strips bacon
1 tablespoon butter
5 cups (loosely packed) chopped celery, stalks and tops
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 medium baking potato, peeled and cubed
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 cups whole milk
salt and pepper
Lay the bacon in the bottom of a large stock pot or dutch oven. Cook over low heat for about 15 or 20 minutes, until crisp (cooking time will depend on how thick your bacon is). Remove and set aside on paper towels.
Add butter to the pot, increase the heat slightly, and add celery, onion, garlic, and thyme. Season well with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes.
Add the potato, stock, and milk to the pot and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the milk from forming a film, until potato is very soft.
Purée the soup with an immersion blender or by transferring it to a food processor or blender. Season to taste with salt (we added at least 2 or 3 more teaspoons) and pepper (about 1 teaspoon). Serve with cooked bacon crumbled on top.
Related: Easy Garnishes for Simple Soups
Recipe originally published December 2, 2008.
(Image: Elizabeth Passarella)