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Cut bacon into small pieces then cook in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat until very crispy. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon then set aside to add later.
Add butter to bacon drippings then sauté celery and onion for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 3 minutes.
Add potatoes, broth, bay leaf, salt and pepper then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover then cook for 30 minutes or until potatoes are very tender.
Stir in half & half, cover then remove from heat. Let rest for 15 minutes.
Taste for seasoning then add more salt and pepper if desired. Stir the soup until it reaches your desired consistency. As you stir, the potatoes will “melt” into the soup (stir less for chunky soup, more for smooth).
Serve reserved bacon on top of the soup as a garnish or stir it into the pot. Garnish with diced chives if desired.