In the wake of post-holiday food fussing, iced over (literally) with a business trip to Chicago, my motivation to prepare anything with more than three steps and a can opener has gone into winter hibernation.

Still, even in my sloth-like state, I was willing to put down my book and get out from under my blanket long enough to fire up the oven and roast a few potatoes for this no-brainer soup. Just like a baked potato, it’s a hearty blank slate to which you can to add whatever toppings you like.

Baked Potato Soup

Tom’s Baked Potato Soup
adapted from my dad’s “I don’t think I have ever done it the same way twice” recipe

6 baking potatoes
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
3 cups milk
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup sweet white onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
salt and pepper
topping additions of your choice

Preheat oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet with foil.

Scrub potatoes and pierce each several times with a fork. Coat each spud with olive oil and place on the baking sheet. Roast for one hour and set aside. When cool enough to handle, scoop out flesh into a bowl and mash slightly.

Dad says: “Leave it kind of chunky. Have a cooking apprentice there to do your bidding. You can play the part of Chef Ramsey, but do not say the F-word as much as he does unless you have a bleeper device handy.” Save skins for snacking.

Melt butter in a large soup pot and saute onion and garlic until tender. Add flour a little at a time and stir constantly, cooking off the raw flour taste. Add milk and continue to stir until thickened. Add broth and potato flesh to the pan and continue to stir, breaking up larger potato chunks with the back of the spoon. (I have also found mashing a pastry cutter around the pot very useful in this situation, or sometimes when I want a creamier soup, I run my immersion blender around it a few times. Cook’s choice.)

Dad notes: “You can add more milk or broth if you want, but it’s supposed to be somewhat thick. Salt and pepper if you want to. (White peppercorns if you have them. Do not want specks in the soup, now do we?) Serve hot. Can top with cheese, chives, bacon bits (oops, bits are for carnivores only).”

I usually just add lots and lots of dill, but this weekend I decided to kick in a couple tablespoons of horseradish-tinged mustard. The soup is a blank canvas; go crazy. It stores well, but may need thinned with broth or milk when reheating.