Bountiful soups

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

During the colder months, hearty soups are often a family favorite. But soups with potatoes as a main ingredient are sometimes overlooked. Potatoes are an inexpensive, versatile vegetable - they can be baked, steamed , boiled, fried, or pan roasted. When used in soups, potatoes can make a bowlful a meal in itself.

There are four main kinds of potatoes - russet Burbank, long white, round red , and round white. Russets are the standard choice for baking; round whites are preferred for roasting or boiling; round reds are thin-skinned and ideal for boiling; long whites are the most versatile and can be fried, roasted, or boiled.

When shopping, look for potatoes that have no bruises, soft spots, or discoloration, and beware of slashes caused by harvesting machines. Potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark place with plenty of air circulation. A trio of potato soups

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Here are some potato soup recipes that use round reds, round whites, or long whites. The potato chowder is a traditional American soup, while the

potato and sausage soup and the cream of potato soup are more European in flavor. Potato Chowder 2 onions, chopped 1/4 pound salt pork, diced 2 leeks, chopped (white part only) 2 celery stalks, chopped 2 tablespoons butter 8 cups water 6 medium potatoes, diced 2 cups light cream Salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion, salt pork, leeks, and celery in butter until limp but not brown. Add water and potatoes and simmer until potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. Gently stir in cream; add salt and pepper. Heat until warm but not boiling. Serves 6 to 8. Potato and Sausage Soup 2 tablespoons butter 1 pound Polish sausage, sliced 1 medium onion, chopped 2 cups chopped celery 4 cups shredded cabbage 2 cups sliced carrots 1 bay leaf 1/2 teaspoon thyme 2 tablespoons vinegar 1 tablespoon salt 1 1/2 cups beef broth 5 cups water 3 cups cubed potatoes

In a large kettle melt butter; add sausage, onion, and celery. Cook until onion and celery are tender. Add all remaining ingredients except potatoes. Cook and cover for 1 1/2 hours. Add potatoes. Cover and cook another 20 minutes. Serves 6. Cream of Potato Soup 6 medium potatoes, pared and cut in quarters 8 slices bacon 1/2 cup chopped fresh onion 1 tablespoon salt 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 2 cups milk 1 cup heavy cream 4 ounces shredded Swiss cheese

Cook potatoes in boiling water to cover until tender, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in saucepan, cook bacon and onion until bacon is lightly browned. Reserve two slices of the bacon to crumble for garnish. Quarter remaining 6 slices and mix with onions; add salt, nutmeg, dry mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Mash potatoes and blend in milk and cream. Add to onion mixture. Cook over low heat until heated. Add cheese and cook until melted. Serve topped with crumbled bacon. Serves 4.

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