My husband's not a big fan of soup, generally speaking, but there are two soups I make that have sparked minor territorial skirmishes.
This is one of them.
You see, I like to make meals ahead, pre-portion them and put them in the fridge, so less cooking has to be done on a day-to-day basis. While he could give no f-words if the soup that I have stored in the fridge is chicken soup, the moment that one of the soups is potato, he gets all territorial. And if you take the last one, he will go all Liam Neeson.
So much for equal partnership in marriage, eh? Fortunately, I know the places in the fridge that my husband never looks, and I hide myself a few servings.
This hot, filling soup whips together in about 45 minutes to an hour for the busy household, and makes plenty of leftovers. You can use practically any cheese you like, though I prefer sharp cheddar or spicy jalapeno Monterey Jack. I've started coming around to using unsweetened, condensed milk in the place of roux to thicken cream soups. Using the condensed milk makes the recipe gluten free and decreases added fat and salt.
It's also a lot easier for people who aren't comfortable in mixing up roux.
Ever since my six year-old and I had a throw down over the importance of aromatics in soup, I've started grinding my mirepoix vegetables (carrots, celery & onion) in soups to puree in advance so that there are no chunks of celery or onion for him to quibble over. If he doesn't see them, he doesn't ask. The other upside to this is there's no soggy chunks of anything, and it helps thicken the soup. You don't have to have a fancy food processor or an immersion blender; all you really need is a little two cup chopper appliance, and I think I bought mine for something like $20 at Sears. If you prefer a chunky vegetable soup, by all means, leave them whole!
Serve hot and topped with a pinch of cheese and fried onions, if you like. Either way, you won't find that the leftovers hang around very long.
In a large soup pot, begin to brown the ground beef with a drizzle of olive oil on medium-high heat.
While the ground beef browns, coarse-cut the onion, celery, carrots and pepper. Smash and peel the garlic cloves, and puree the vegetables into a thick slurry.
When the beef is cooked, transfer to a colander over a bowl to drain the grease. Dispose of the hot grease safely.
Return the ground beef to the pot with the vegetable slurry and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until everything begins to smell nice. While the beef and vegetables are cooking, dice the potatoes quickly into bite-sized chunks. Add the potatoes, box of broth, and seasonings to the pot. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until potatoes are soft to the bite.
Add the condensed milk to the pot, and heat over medium-low heat, stirring periodically, until hot through. Remove pot from heat and stir in the shredded cheese, stirring it as it melts. Taste and add salt, pepper, and more cheese to taste preferences if required.
Serve garnished with shredded cheese and crispy onion bits.