Loaded Baked Potato Soup with Crispy-Fried Potato Skins
8 slices of bacon, chopped
3 lbs. russet potatoes, scrubbed
1 onion, chopped fine
2 t. minced fresh thyme
2 T. flour
4 c. low-sodium chicken broth
1 c. half n half
salt & pepper
2 c. sharp cheddar cheese, plus more for serving
1 c. sour cream, plus more for serving
Using a vegetable peeler, remove wide, long strips of potato peel and set aside. Finish peeling the potatoes. ( I had probably around a 1 1/2 c. peels.)
Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add chopped bacon and cook until crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove bacon to a paper towel-lined plate.
To the fat in the pan, add the potato skins and cook until crisp about 10 min. (You want to be sure they are crisp, or else they'll just be soggy and greasy, I took mine out at just the 10 minute mark and they weren't truly crisp, so I just spread them out on a cookie sheet and baked them in a 400 degree oven for around 5 minutes and they were very crisp after that.)
Remove the crisped potato skins to the paper-lined plate with the bacon. Add the onion to the fat remaining in the pan, cook until tender and lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Add the thyme and flour, cook and stir for about a minute. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and the half n half. Add the potatoes and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook until the potatoes are very tender, (you should be able to easly crush a piece of potato against the side of the pot with the back of a wooden spoon) about 10-15 minutes.
Using a blender, puree (in small batches) all but about 3 cups of the soup. Using a potato masher or your wooden spoon, lightly crush the potato chunks in the reserved potion of the soup. Add the pureed soup back to the pot and return to a low burner to keep the soup hot. Add in the 2 c. cheese, stir until melted, then add in the sour cream, stir well. Season to taste with salt & pepper. (Sometimes I like to add some of the crisped bacon into the soup mixture at this point, but that's optional.)
To serve, top bowls of soup with crisped bacon and potato skins, additional cheddar, sour cream and sliced scallion.