Loaded “Baked” Potato Soup
  
 8 ounces bacon, chopped
 3 lbs russet potatoes, scrubbed
 1 large onion, chopped
 2 garlic cloves, minced
 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
 1 cup heavy cream
 1 sprig fresh thyme
 4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, plus additional for garnish
 1 cup sour cream, plus additional for garnish
   ground black pepper
 3 scallions, sliced thin
  
  
 Cook bacon in Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, about 8
 minutes. While bacon is cooking, use vegetable peeler to remove wide
 strips of potato peel; reserve peels. Cut peeled potatoes into 3/4-
 inch pieces. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to plate lined with
 paper towels. Add reserved potato skins to bacon fat in pot and cook
 until crisp, about 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer potato
 skins to plate with bacon.
 
 Add onion to fat remaining in pot and cook over medium heat until
 golden, about 6 minutes. Stir in garlic and flour and cook until
 fragrant, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in broth and cream, stir in
 thyme and potatoes, and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to
 medium-low, cover pot, and cook until potatoes are tender, about 7
 minutes.
 
 Discard thyme and transfer 2 cups** cooked potatoes to bowl. Puree
 remaining soup in batches in blender until smooth. Return to pot and
 warm over medium-high heat. Off heat, stir in cheese until melted,
 then whisk in sour cream. Return reserved potatoes to pot and season
 soup with pepper. Ladle soup into bowls, garnishing with bacon, fried
 potato skins, scallions, cheese, and sour cream.
 
 To reheat leftover portions, gently warm the soup in a saucepan over
 medium heat until steaming. Do not let the soup boil, which will
 cause the sour cream to separate.
  
 **If you prefer a chunkier soup, reserve some of the potatoes in step
 3 before blending. 
 
 Makes 8 servings.