Potato Cheese Soup:
7-8 c. potatoes, peeled and diced (I used 3 LARGE russet bakers, cut into about a 1/2 in. dice)
4 c. chicken stock (if using storebought, a 32 oz. box is perfect)
1 tsp. salt
2 c. milk (I used 2%, but whole milk would make a much richer soup)
2 c. shredded cheese (I used mild chedder)
5-6 strips bacon
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp. flour
Freshly ground pepper
I combined the potatoes, salt, and stock in my dutch oven and put them over medium heat to cook, covered. I know it seems like a lot of salt, but potatoes absorb a lot of sodium while cooking. While the potatoes were cooking, I cut the strips of bacon in half and cooked them in two batches in my non-stick skillet. Once the bacon was nice and crispy, I removed the strips to a paper towel-covered plate to drain. I reserved two tablespoons of the bacon grease and discarded the rest, wiping out the pan with a paper towel. I returned the reserved grease to the hot pan and added in the chopped onions, cooking them until they were soft and translucent. Once the onions were cooked, I sprinkled the flour over them and stirred it in. This will help thicken the soup later.
Once the potatoes were tender, I removed two cups of stock and several scoops of potatoes. I added the milk, four strips of the bacon (crumbled), a few generous dashes of hot sauce, and the cooked onions to the remaining potatoes and stock. Then I used my stick blender to puree the mixture. You could also use a blender, but it may need to be done in batches. It is also important to take care when puring hot soups in a blender, leaving the lid partially open and covered with a towel (you don't want a volcanic explosion of potato soup in your kitchen).
After I blended the soup, I stirred in the reserved potatoes and most of the stock. I ended up using all but 1/3 c. of the stock, but it depends on how thick you want your soup to be. Also, the soup will thicken as it cools, so you may want to make it a little on the thin side to begin with. I stirred in the two cups of cheese until it melted, and added a few grinds of black pepper. I served the soup and topped our bowls with the remaining bacon. Sliced scallions would also be delicious on top.
My sister-in-law knows someone who adds ham to this soup. It could be made with beef stock and vegetables, even left unpureed for more of a stew. You could also puree all of the potatoes if you find chunks objectionable. Use a more daring cheese in place of the cheddar (gruyere, perhaps)? Maybe substitute beer for some of the stock? This recipe could be a starting-point for your perfect potato soup. Be creative and enjoy!