2 (6 to 8 oz.) baking potatoes (such as russet or Yukon Gold)
3 Tbsp. butter
½ c. chopped onion
¼ c. chopped celery
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. dried thyme, crushed
¼ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
4 c. half-and-half, light cream or milk
1¼ c. shredded American cheese (5 oz.)
1 c. chicken broth
8 slices bacon, crisp-cooked, drained and crumbled
2 Tbsp. thinly sliced green onion
¼ c. dairy sour cream
Scrub potatoes with a vegetable brush; pat dry. Prick potatoes with a fork. Bake in a 425° oven for 40-60 minutes or until tender; cool. Peel potatoes, if desired. Chop potatoes; set aside.
In a heavy large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and celery. Cook and stir about 5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Stir in flour, thyme, salt and pepper. Add half-and-half or milk all at once. Cook and stir for 5-6 minutes or until thickened and bubbly. Add potatoes, 1 cup of the cheese and the broth; stir until cheese melts. Slightly mash potatoes with the back of a spoon or a potato masher.
For topping: Reserve 2 Tbsp. of the bacon. Stir remaining bacon and 1 Tbsp. of the green onion into soup. Heat through.
To serve, top each serving with reserved bacon, remaining ¼ cup cheese, green onions and the sour cream. —6 servings (about 1 c. each).