My usual recipe for potato soup came from my mom and, frankly, is pretty much just thin mashed potatoes with garlic and Parmesan. It's very good, don't get me wrong. But dinner last night was a step up, and still very easy.
Because in case I haven't mentioned, I like easy.
I also love comfort food, which this definitely qualifies for. And with the addition of kale, I can almost pretend that it's healthy. Which it probably would be, if I'd cut back on the butter and cured pork.
-4 pounds of potatoes (I used red potatoes, but use whatever you have)
-4 cloves of garlic (peeled)
-1 pound of ham (can substitute 1/4 to 1/2 pound of bacon, or leave it out entirely)
-Olive Oil (you won't need this if you're using bacon)
-2 to 3 shallots, diced (you can substitute onion here if necessary)
-bunch of Kale (chard or cabbage would also work)
-1 and 1/2 cup of milk (you can use vegetable stock or even some of the reserved cooking water instead)
-1 and 1/2 stick of softened butter (yes, you can use less if you really want)
-1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan (about half an ounce)
-salt and pepper
-a good loaf of bread
How to Put it All Together
-Scrub potatoes (I never peel my potatoes) and cut into 1/4 inch sized pieces. Add to pot of cold water along with 2 or 3 cloves of garlic. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to maintain a low boil.
-Cut the ham (or bacon) into bite sized pieces and brown it in a skillet.
-Move the ham to the side of the skillet. Add a tablespoon or so of olive oil to the middle (if using ham), followed by the shallot. Cook, stirring regularly, until it's browned. It'll pick up all the nice browned bits on the skillet, which is a very good thing.
-Cut the stems of the kale into 1/4 inch pieces.
-Stir these in with the ham and shallot. Add 1/2 cup of water and cover.
-Mix together one stick of the softened butter, one clove of garlic that's been through a garlic press and half of the Parmesan.
-Slice the bread, butter one side of each piece with the mixture and place on a broiler pan, buttered side up.
-At this point, the kale stems should be somewhat softened. Chop the rest of the kale and add it to the skillet. If it looks dry, add a bit more water. Cover and let cook.
-In a microwave safe bowl (I usually use a big glass pyrex measuring cup), heat the milk until hot. Set aside.
-When the potatoes are cooked through, drain them, reserving some of the liquid.
-Return to the pot and mash. You can do this as smooth or as chunky as you like, just make sure to completely mash the few cloves of garlic that still are in there.
-Add the heated milk, any left-over butter and garlic mixture as well as the other half stick of butter. When everything is melted in, add the ham and kale from the skillet. If necessary, add some of the reserved cooking water until it's a consistency you like. (The pictures above were a very thick version because that's what I was in the mood for.)
-Season with salt and pepper and the remaining Parmesan.
-Put over low heat to keep warm while you put the bread under the broiler (about 4 inches from the element) until it's nicely browned. I never do this step while I'm trying to do other stuff in the kitchen because that always leads to disaster.
-Serve with extra Parmesan and the toasts on the side.
After I made it, I realized that the recipe is basically a version of Colcannon, Irish peasant food. So, just curious... do any of you out there have your own versions of this?