If you enjoy the outdoors, even on the coldest days, then this Baked Potato Broccoli Cheddar Soup is for you. It has everything: bacon, cheese, more cheese, and even some vegetables.
My husband’s extended family lives in a rural area in The Northwoods of Wisconsin, about 2 hours northwest of Green Bay. (And yes, we measure distance in time in Wisconsin.) We don’t get a chance to make it up there as much as we would like, but when we do, it’s always a good time – we play cards, spend time with the family, and have a few (or more) beers.
Though I am excited to visit with everyone when we head Up North, I always look forward to seeing my cousin-in-law (is that a thing?) Jake. Jake has played the role of chief strategist for me when playing cards (he was too young to gamble, I am not good at any card games) and he loves to cook.
As soon as I started this blog, I knew that I wanted to get Jake’s perspective on paper. (Er, on screen?) He has been cooking since he was 10 years old (he’s 18 now) and is also an avid hunter and fisherman. His relationship to the ingredients he hunts, catches, or grows runs deeper than most of us who simply head to the grocery store for our food. For Jake, hunting and cooking go hand-in-hand — “If you can’t cook it, you can’t eat it!”
Every chance he got, Jake took the opportunity to learn more about cooking. He taped his favorite cooking shows to watch when he got home from school. His middle and high schools offered classes in cooking — including a small-group class where they learned how to use professional kitchen equipment — and he took all of them. He makes recipes he finds, then makes them again to tweak them to his liking. Jake is a senior in high school this year, so I asked if he planned to pursue a culinary career.
His answer? “No way.”
Instead, he plans to pursue a career in natural resources and become a game warden. While he loves cooking, he also loves being outside and it is important to him to ensure that “other people don’t abuse God’s gifts.” Plus, he wants to keep experimenting in the kitchen and doesn’t want cooking to feel like work.
When I asked Jake what his favorite food is, it didn’t take him long to say potato soup. “After a day of hunting in the cold, potato soup is the best thing to have.” The recipe he uses is one that he learned from his Aunt Jan (who is also my mother-in-law) – but he makes one tweak: extra cheese. Any Wisconsinite will tell you — there is always room for more cheese.
A few days later, I ran an idea past Jake – what if we combined potato soup with broccoli cheddar soup? Jake’s response? “The more cheese the better.” Done.
For this recipe, I used baked potatoes, instead of boiled potatoes. I like the texture the baked potatoes offer and this step can be done a day or two ahead of time. Use any method you like, but I used this recipe for “baked” potatoes in an Instant Pot.
I also chopped the broccoli inconsistently on purpose — I wanted some of the tiny green bits that are common in broccoli cheddar soup, but also wanted a few good sized pieces throughout for texture.
Be sure to keep some extra cheese and sour cream on hand for topping, and enjoy!
Baked Potato Broccoli Cheddar Soup
- 4 Russet potatoes baked then skins removed and roughly diced
- 1 small head broccoli chopped
- 6 ounces cheddar cheese shredded (plus more for topping)
- ½ lb thick-cut bacon diced
- 1 onion diced
- 3 stalks celery diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 6 cups chicken stock
- ¾ cup sour cream plus more for topping
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a Dutch oven or large pot, cook the diced bacon until crispy. Be sure not to crowd the pot; work in batches if needed. Remove with a slotted spoon onto a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Reserve 2-3 tablespoons of the rendered bacon fat.
Saute the onion, celery, and garlic in the reserved bacon fat. Cook, stirring frequently for 2-3 minutes, until softened. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up any browned bits (or fond) from the bottom of the pot.
Add the chicken stock and the baked potato, then bring to a simmer. Simmer for 4-5 minutes.
Using a potato masher, gently break up the potato pieces until the desired consistency. (I prefer small pieces, but not completely smooth.)
Add the chopped broccoli pieces and return to a simmer for an addition 5-6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add the sour cream, shredded cheese, and most of the cooked bacon to the soup. Stir until the cheese is melted and the sour cream is fully incorporated. Remove from heat.
Use a ladle to portion the soup into bowls, then top with the reserved bacon, and additional cheddar and sour cream if you’d like.