When in Doubt, Fry an Onion: Potato and Bacon Soup

My mom’s side of the family is Ukrainian, and so I grew up on a lot of pierogi and kielbasa. Being the good little half-Ukrainian I am, I have absorbed into my repertoire a good number of dishes that are either Ukrainian in origin, or are Ukrainian-ized dishes made by my Baba.

If the recipe in question is a savory preparation, it is almost guaranteed to begin with the phrase, “First, fry an onion.” I’m not sure if the strong love of onion is Ukrainian or something that just pertains to my Baba, but the connection is very strong in my mind. Ukrainian food, at least for my family, almost always includes an onion.

Looking back, I feel a little sorry for childhood me because it took me a very long time to come to appreciate the flavor of onion. That doesn’t jive well with a family who is onion-happy.  Let’s just say it was common for me to sit at the table for quite a while contemplating taking that dreaded first bite.  I didn’t know what I was missing though.

This soup probably has very little Ukrainian basis, if at all, I don’t truly know it’s origins. All I know is that we’ve been eating it for years. Due to it’s reminiscent of pierogi flavors and the ubiquitous instruction to fry an onion, I’ve always credited it to my Baba.

Potato and Bacon Soup

(origins unknown, maybe from my Baba’s kitchen)

8 slices of bacon, cut into lardons

1 large onion

1/3 C white wine

8 or 9 small russet potatoes, diced

1 tsp thyme

5 C milk

salt and pepper to taste (be prepared to use more salt than you expect to, it is a lot of potato)

  • Fry your lardons until crispy and the fat has been rendered. Remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon.
  • Fry your onion!
  • Deglaze with the white wine.
  • Add the diced potatoes to the pot, giving them a minute to warm through.
  • Pour in the milk and bring to a boil, then reduce heat.
  • Add in thyme, salt and pepper. Check a few times to see that the soup is properly seasoned.
  • Boil until the potatoes have gone soft. By boiling them in the milk, they lend starch to thicken the soup.
  • Add the crispy bacon back to the pot, stirring until it is evenly distributed.
  • Serve!

Just for fun, here’s the fact of the day: fry an onion in Ukrainian is смажити цибулю.

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