One of the many upsides to having a spouse who loves to bake bread is that our soup consumption goes up as the temperatures go down. Because, really, is there a homier winter meal than a butter-slathered slice of sourdough dunked in a bowl of homemade soup?
I’ll make soup out of almost anything that crosses my cutting board, but potatoes are a staple in the pot. Usually, I pair them with leeks for a brothy, allium-sweet soup filled with pillowy nuggets of Yukon Golds.
But this potato-Cheddar variation is an entirely different thing. Taking its cue not from chunky vegetable soup but from cheesy mashed potatoes, it’s a silky-smooth purée that’s rich but not excessive, hearty but not heavy, and spiked with a little chili powder and a lot of garlic to liven things up.
Served unadorned, it’s a lovely and mellow meal in its own right. But the no-cook, quick-pickled jalapeños really make it shine, and throwing them together couldn’t be easier. Just slice them, douse them with fresh lime juice, stir in a pinch of salt and sugar, and let everything hang out while the soup simmers. That’s all there is to it, and the payoff is big, with the jalapeño slices perking up every spoonful of soup.
One thing you’ll have to decide is whether to remove the jalapeño seeds. This will depend on how spicy you like things, and how fiery your peppers are. Sometimes you can predict the heat of a chile by smelling it — if it’s a scorcher, it will make your nose tingle. But a more reliable way is to cut one open and give its guts a lick. Usually, I end up removing some but not all of the seeds by shaking the opened pepper over the sink. It’s the lazy person’s way, and it works for me.
Along with the pickled peppers, I garnish bowls with some cilantro and scallions for freshness, plus plenty of grated Cheddar, which melts into a gooey raft as it meets the hot soup.
Then pair it with a leafy salad for something green, along with slices of good crusty bread to round it all out. Whether you get those slices from a homemade loaf or otherwise, you’ll be happy for the chance to sop up every last drop of this savory, creamy soup.