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Latvian Potato-Wild Mushroom Soup

(Kartupelu zupa ar senem)

Thick, rich, creamy, and laced with sweet paprika, crispy bacon, and pungent wild mushrooms. Oh my. It's really, really good. Serve hot to 6-8 people--it's a proper meal in itself, served with good bread and salad.

  • 1 ounce imported dried mushrooms, rinsed and soaked in 1 cup warm water for an hour (cepes/porcini are best, but asian mushrooms will also work)
  • 5 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 4 slices of bacon, finely diced
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
  • white pepper, to taste

Garnish: chopped fresh dill

Filter the mushroom liquid to remove impurities, then add it, the rest of the water, and the mushrooms to a large soup pot, and bring to a boil over high heat. Add salt, reduce heat, then simmer for 30 minutes. Add the potatoes, raise heat to medium, and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat.

Fish out the mushrooms, let them cool for a minute, then chop them roughly and set to the side. Fry the bacon crisp in a separate skillet, then drain. Pour off all but a Tablespoon of bacon grease--and add the onion and mushrooms to it. Sauté over medium heat for about 15 minutes, until the mixture is nicely browned. Stir the bacon back into it.

Meanwhile, Purée the potatoes with a cup of broth, then whisk the potatoes back into the pot, beating hard to remove any lumps. When the bacon mixture is ready, bring the potato soup back to a simmer, add the cream, and let heat for several minutes, until the soup is about to boil. Stir in the mushrooms, bacon, and onion, season with paprika and pepper and adjust for salt.

When ready to serve, ladle into bowls and garnish with fresh dill.