New and improved! Now with less* brains! Or none at all, really... especially if one is running on about 13 hours' sleep over the previous three nights. Fortunately, this soup is easy enough to crank out that even the most zombified cook can crank it out with minimal injury to self or others. It does require a little chopping, but nothing too arduous. And if you really are a zombie, you could use your teeth to tear everything into shreds instead.
This would be darn good--not AS good, but DARN good--without the bacon, even, if one were not bacon-ly inclined.
Bacon Baked Potato Soup
Theoretically serves six to eight, but there was none left when I got up this morning.
3 medium russet potatoes, scrubbed, ends cut off and baked (or microwaved... you won't be eating the peels, so it doesn't really matter)
4 thick slices good bacon, diced (OR 2 Tbsp butter)
1 large onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp flour
2 cups stock**
1/2 to 1 tsp spicy hot sauce (Drunken Angel Hot Sauce, as ever, was my pick)
1/2 to 1 cup sour cream
Salt & pepper
Grated Cheddar cheese and chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish
If you're microwaving the potatoes, which I highly recommend if you want to eat sometime in the next half hour, go ahead and get your chopping done while they cook. If you're baking the potatoes, which I highly recommend if you want half an hour of slack time to read or brush your teeth or screw around on the Internet, then hey... knock yourself out.
Put bacon in a soup pot; set over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon is deliciously crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on paper towels. Pour off all but 2 Tbsp fat. (If you're not using bacon, just melt 2 Tbsp butter in a soup pot over medium heat and proceed to the next step.)
Add onions and celery to pot; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until nice and tender, about 7 minutes. While they're cooking, peel and cube the baked potatoes. (Don't worry about making the pieces overly small; they'll be falling apart completely in the next step anyway.) When onion is translucent, add garlic; cook and stir 1 minute more. Whisk in flour; cook and stir a couple minutes more, until flour loses its raw smell/flavor.
Whisk in stock, a little at a time; when it's all incorporated, add hot sauce and half of reserved bacon and bring just to a boil. Reduce heat and add potatoes. Grab a potato masher and mash the heck out of the potatoes in the still-simmering soup. (Be careful. Hot splashes hurt.) When soup is relatively smooth, whisk in sour cream. Heat through but do not boil.
Taste soup and add salt and pepper as you see fit. (If you made the bacon-friendly option, it will probably not need much salt.) Serve each bowl lovingly lavished with reserved bacon, grated cheese and chopped parsley.
* Sure, it should technically be "fewer" brains, but that kind of wrecks the flow.
** I am tired of writing "chicken or vegetable broth" all the time, so I'm switching to the beautifully terse "stock" instead. If a soup needs something specific, such as beef stock, I'll let you know... otherwise, let your conscience be your guide.