Ok, due to rather aggressive demand 😉 here’s my recipe for a dish I call Cheesy Potato Chowder.
I developed this recipe over several years of trial and error and have finally gotten it to such a wonderful level of awesome that I don’t tinker with it anymore. I make these 2 or 3 times a month during cold weather, um, like NOW!
As with most of my cooking, I don’t have exact measurements. In fact I have to use the same pots each time so that I can estimate the quantities pretty accurately. So take a walk with me…
potatoes, skin on — something more than about 5lbs (or estimate what it will take to fill your crock pot 3/4ths of the way with RAW chopped potatoes)
onions — approximately 1 large or to taste
garlic — several cloves or to taste
milk — depends on thickness desired…I use most of a half-gallon
cheese — again depends on cheesiness/thickness desired…I use several cups grated, usually a mixture of chedder and mozzerella
salt — to taste
large (not non-stick) skillet
large crock pot
various cooking utensils
Plug in the crock pot, set it to high and pour in milk until it is 1/3rd full. Set this aside, the milk will be warming as you get everything going.
Then, it all starts with the skillet, some olive oil and the onion. Seriously, most all the best cooking I can think of starts with those. Yum!
Heat up the skillet then add the olive oil. I use enough to cover the bottom of the skillet. Chop or mince up the onion and cook until at least soft, I usually keep going until they are completely translucent. Do not let the onions scorch or burn…you want them cooked but not brown.
As soon as the onions are done, start putting in chopped potatoes. I prefer to chop them pretty small, as it helps with both the cooking time and the overall texture of the finished dish. Chop a potato, stir it in, chop the next potato, stir it in. Do NOT wait until all the potatoes are chopped. Add them as you chop them. This again helps with the texture. Keep stirring everything around so that nothing burns on the bottom of the pan. It’s ok for things to stick, actually you want them too, but not burn. Here’s a photo of my favorite skillet after the potatoes have gone into the crock pot. All of that is the wonderful, flavor-filled goodness you don’t want to leave behind.
Next, resist the urge to move the potatoes over to the crock pot as you go. If your skillet is large enough to do so, keep adding to it. You want all the potatoes to saute well in this mixture. You are developing big flavor here, way more than one might normally expect from humble potatoes. 🙂
Ok, once you have sauted all the potatoes, carefully pour/scoop/ladle them into the warming milk in the crock pot. Stir, put the lid on and go back to the skillet. Now you want to take that hot skillet, turn the fire to medium and pour in say 2 cups of cold milk.
Take a strong utensil (love my only metal spatula for this step) and start scraping the stuck stuff off. It will come up pretty easily as that milk is heating up. Don’t let the milk scald. Once you have most of the stuff un-stuck, carefully pour all of this into the crock pot as well.
Add in chopped garlic. I usually do 2 medium size cloves. Usually we can’t distinctly taste that much, but you can do more or less to your family’s taste.
Add some salt…couple teaspoons maybe. Not too much. You’ll taste it later and get a better sense of what it needs. Feel free to pepper as well, though, again, you might want to hold off.
And then go do something else for, um, the next 5 or 6 hours. This is a great one for putting together right after breakfast and then forgetting about until right before dinner (though I do tend to check on it about once an hour and stirring.)
I usually let it cook for the first hour on high and then switch it down to low for the remainder of the day. When you go to switch it to low is a good time to take a small taste and add more salt if you like. Just a bit more. You’ll taste it again before adding the cheese sauce later in the day.
About a half hour before you wish to serve the dish, you need to make the cheese sauce.
You are more than welcome to just add cheese right in to the crock pot, but it will most likely separate and just not be creamy and awesome. Believe me, I’ve tried it and only set myself the task of learning to make a simple cheese sauce because I was unhappy with the easy way. 🙂
This method is SUPER easy though.
You need about a cup and a half of milk warming in a medium size saucepan. To this you add about a 1/4 cup of flour. Any flour. Whatever you have on hand. Stir it well, though it will still be lumpy. Now, before the milk is bubbling, add about a cup of shredded cheese. I usually do about 2 cups of cheddar and 1 cup of mozzarella, adding them a cup at a time and continuously stirring. Do not stop stirring and just be patient. As soon as one cup seems to be well-integrated, add the next cup, repeat.
Once you have a nice, thick, creamy cheese goo in the pot, turn the heat off and carefully pour this into the crock pot. Stir very well, make sure it is well integrated. Taste for saltiness, add if desired. Now with the crock pot still on low, let it simmer for at least 15 minutes. Stir again, then serve. Enjoy!
Cinnamon rolls optional, but eagerly recommended. 🙂