The month of November makes me think of my husband because the month begins with his birthday, but it will also always remind me of my Grandpa Sells because the month ends with his birthday, which coincidentally is the same day as mine. My grandpa was one of my most favorite people in the whole world and he is the one who helped me learn to appreciate cooking. For the next couple weeks I’ll be posting some of the recipes made famous to our family by my grandpa. I also plan to tell a story or two.
Learning how to cook from my grandpa wasn’t the easiest, because like so many cooks he always added a little bit of this and a little bit of that. He never wrote anything down and he never measured. After he passed away I was able to scan some recipe books that were in his house. Everything is in my grandmother’s handwriting and I can picture her scrunching her nose up over her glasses as she hurriedly scribbles down whatever my grandpa was throwing into the pot. See? Here it is, misspellings & all. 🙂
The first recipe had to be his potato soup. That’s because it was one of the things everyone looked forward to on our yearly camping trip on the beach in Mexico. For four days (and sometimes as long as seven) my grandfather would plan meals for thirty plus people while camping in the middle of nowhere. Luckily for us typical camping food was never on any of his menus; no hotdogs, no cold turkey sandwiches, no…what do people usually eat when they’re camping? My grandpa planned things like breaded chicken and mashed potatoes, fried rolled tacos with beans & rice, sopapillas filled with scrambled eggs & vegetables, bacon wrapped filet mignon & dutch oven peach or apple cobbler for dessert. Seriously. He got up early to start breakfast long before anyone else was awake and as soon as breakfast was over he was usually thinking about lunch. The only problem was that everyone took most of their snacks home with them after the trip because no one ever had any time to get hungry. Regardless of the fact that we spent the days swimming, playing beach volleyball, hunting for shells and walking the reef, I’m pretty sure we all gained weight. I know my mom (among others) tried to convince Grandpa to cut it down to only two meals a day, but he wouldn’t hear of it. I’m afraid he worked more than he played on those trips. My most favorite part about the Gulf trip was in the evening, when he finally sat down and we could listen to him recite poetry around the campfire or help lead some of our favorite songs. But you see, even then he was serving us.
- 6 russet potatoes, peeled & diced
- 3 ribs celery, diced
- 1 onion, diced
- 4 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) flour
- 8 cups of water or 6 cups chicken broth
- 3 cups milk
- 1 1/2 tablespoons dried rosemary needles (not ground)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons dried thyme (not ground)
- salt & fresh cracked pepper to taste
- bacon, cheese, green onions (for garnish- Papa didn’t do this, but I think it’s a must!)
- If you’re going to add bacon as a garnish, start with that. Cut it into small squares and fry it up until it’s nice and crispy in a large pot. (Use the same one you’re going to make the soup in so you have less dishes!) Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon pieces and let them drain on a paper towel. Get rid of at least half of the bacon grease, but save about two tablespoons to cook the veggies in.
- Dice celery & onion and start cooking it in the bacon grease over medium heat. If you didn’t use the bacon, then just add a tablespoon of butter.
- Peel and dice the potatoes and add them to the veggie mix. Cook for about three minutes.
- Pour eight cups of water into the pot and bring to a boil. Allow the veggies to cook until the potatoes are fork tender.
- While the veggies are boiling in another medium sized pan make your cream sauce or roux. Melt the other 3 tablespoons of butter and whisk in the flour to the pan. Cook for about 2-3 minutes to make sure you’re cooking out that flour taste. Add the milk to the roux while whisking and bring to a boil.
- When the potatoes are fork tender, (don’t overcook them!) drain half the water out of the pan and then add your cream mixture into the soup.
- Sprinkle in your seasonings, (thyme and rosemary are really to taste- Papa always used quite a bit which gave it it’s unique “papa-flavored” soup. You can use ground, but you’ll have to use less obviously.)
- “It doesn’t need anything else, Sugar,” my grandpa would say (who never ate cheese or bacon after he had his first heart attack) but I say “Bacon, cheese, & green onions? Yes please!”