People’s Pickle Polish Potato Potage
At Rick’s Picks, we love us some alliteration, which is why it brings me great pleasure to bring you my recipe for People’s Pickle Polish Potato Potage. All those P’s… say ‘em quickly in a row (P-P-P-P-P) and it sounds like champagne flowing. Full disclosure: soups were an area of passionate focus for me long before I became intense about pickles, and soups of all kinds continue to be projects that I look forward to creating most every weekend. I like to be able to brownbag a quart of soup with me to work most everyday. Like the ad man said back in the day, Soup Is Good Food.
Many of the soups that I like to make have a significant potato component. Quality potatoes, when they are cooked down and blended with a food processor or immersion blender, will lend a natural creaminess to a puree or “cream of” soup that usually eliminates the need for fatty cream itself while adding more flavor. Life is creamy enough.
For my soup, I shopped at Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket, and paid a visit to my good pal Bill Maxwell of Maxwell’s Farm, based in Changewater, N.J. Bill was one of the first farmer-partners I worked with when getting Rick’s Picks off the ground, and over the years he has provided me with cucumbers, green beans, jalapenos and dill flowers. For this project, I hit Bill up for some of his German Butterball potatoes, along with a couple of sweet onions, some dill leaf and a robust bunch of his spectacular chives. Total cost: seven bucks.
People’s Pickle Polish Potato Potage
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (life is also salty enough)
3 lbs. potatoes (German butterball, Yukon Gold or Red Bliss preferred)
1 lb medium onions
2 quarts low sodium chicken stock (life remains salty enough)
1 bunch dill leaf
1 bunch chives
2 cups milk
1 jar (or more) Rick’s Picks’ The People’s Pickle
1 jar Rick’s Picks’ Pepi Pep Peps
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Start by melting a full stick of unsalted butter in a stock pot over medium heat. Skin the onions and chop them into half-inch rounds, and then into quartered slices. Cube the potatoes into one-inch pieces, leaving the skins on the skins will add a nice depth of flavor). Don’t worry too much about making the onions a precise shape as they will be pureed later.
Cook the onions for five minutes until they appear translucent. Add the potatoes and stir steadily with a wooden spoon. After five more minutes, add a cup of the chicken stock to the pot to keep the bottom deglazed. Cook for 15 minutes or so, until the potatoes begin to soften. Add the remaining stock, the juice of a well-squeezed lemon, and a healthy amount of freshly-squeezed black pepper.
Stir the contents and then add two cups of milk and turn the heat down to a simmer. While the soup is simmering, remove the pickles from a jar of The People’s Pickle and chop them coarsely into half-inch cubes. Add three tablespoons of brine to the simmering soup, skimming off the solid bits of spice and garlic so that the liquid is the only thing you are adding.
Next, puree the soup in batches with a food processor or puree the entire contents of the stock pot with an immersion blender. Add the chopped pickles. Mince the dill and chives and add them to the pot, stirring to spread them evenly throughout. Add a small amount of additional milk if you find the soup too thick. After five minutes, turn off the heat completely and allow the soup to rest on the stove with the pot lid on.
And for the croutons: preheat an oven to 450 degrees. Take half a stick of butter and and melt it in a sautee pan over low heat. Add 2 oz of brine from a jar of Pepi Pep Peps, making sure to include the chunks of ginger and garlic that rest on the bottom of the jar. Whisk together the contents. Slice the baguette (I got mine from Buon Pane at Grand Army Plaza for $3, finishing off my $10 allocation). Their baguettes are wonderfully dense and chewy, and make for great croutons. Slice the loaf into half-inch rounds and set them on a baking sheet. With a pastry brush, paint each of the baguette rounds with the butter brine mixture.
Place the baking sheet in the oven, making sure to keep an eye on the proceedings. The difference between croutons that have been nicely browned and burnt black is about a minute. Nicely browned wins every time. Remove the croutons from the baking sheet and allow them to cool in a bowl.
Bring the soup up to a warm temperature, and ladle generously into a wide, deep bowl. Place croutons on the top, and finish the soup with a few grinds of fresh black pepper.
Variations: you can cook a few slices of bacon in the stock pot before beginning the whole process, and then drain off most of the grease that results and crumbling the bacon into the soup just before blending. You can also add rounds of kielbasa if you want to get your meat groove on, and I’ve had made a practice of shaving off the kernels from leftover corn on the cob. Don’t waste anything!