by Peggy Paul Casella
As soon as my sister and I were big enough to wield snow shovels, my mother would pawn us off to help clear the steep driveway outside Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Huntingdon Valley. Our reward? One whole quarter each from Grandpa (50 cents if we did a really good job) and steamy bowls of Grandma’s potato soup, ladled right from the stove. While we ate, clutching the bowls in both hands to thaw our frozen fingers, Grandma would ask about school and Grandpa would quiz us on American history or play one of his favorite big band albums on their giant record player.
In all the years since then, as I entered adulthood and eventually became a cookbook editor and food writer, I have yet to find a potato soup recipe that rivals my grandma’s in flavor or comfort. The ingredients are simple but a bit specific—Grandma notes on her handwritten recipe card that the milk should be bottled and the parsley should be curly (not flat-leaf).
Basically, since you’ll notice every flavor in this soup, from the potato-onion-celery base to the butter and milk “broth” and parsley garnish, you should spring for the good stuff, sourced from local farms and dairies.
Enjoy this soup on a cold winter day while listening to your coziest playlist—no manual labor required.
Serves 4 to 6
- 2½ cups water
- 2 cups peeled and finely diced russet potatoes
- 2 small yellow onions, finely diced
- 2 outside stalks of celery, including leaves, diced
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1¾ teaspoons salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups whole milk (preferably grass-fed)
- 1 tablespoon minced, fresh, curly parsley
- Bring the water to a boil in a medium pot. Add the potatoes, onions and celery, cover the pot and cook until the vegetables are very tender. When the vegetables are done cooking, after about 10 to 20 minutes, pour them through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, liquid and all. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to smash the vegetables through the sieve. You should have 3 cups of purée.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large double boiler over medium heat. Add the flour, stir until smooth, and then add the salt, black pepper and milk. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is smooth and thickened, 5 to 7 minutes.
- Stir the potato purée into the milk mixture, add the parsley and cook just until heated through. Serve immediately.
Peggy Paul Casella is a cookbook editor, writer, urban vegetable gardener and the author of the blog Thursday Night Pizza.