1/4 lb bacon, coarsely chopped
4 TBS butter (1/2 stick)
2 small leeks, thoroughly washed, chopped fine
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. baby carrots, thinly sliced
1/2 c. unbleached flour
6 c. organic chicken broth (or 6 c. water & good quality chicken soup base)
5 - 6 large russet potatoes, peeled & diced (about 3 lbs)
2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 c. Half & Half (you can substitute milk in a pinch, but it will not taste as rich)
Place bacon in large saucepan; cook over medium high, stirring occasionally until it is crisp but not overly brown. Remove from pan with slotted spoon to drain & reserve for garnish.
Pour off all but 1 TBS bacon drippings. Add butter to reserve drippings & place pan back on medium heat. When melted, add leek, onion, garlic & carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion becomes translucent, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle flour over vegetables & stir in until all lumps have disappeared. Gradually stir in chicken broth, stirring constantly & scraping bottom well. Raise liquid just to a boil. Quickly stir in potatoes & reduce heat to a simmer. Cook partially covered until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
Put cheese in large mixing bowl. Ladle in about a quarter of the hot liquid (straining out veggies), stirring constantly. Continue stirring until the cheese has completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir the cheese mixture back into the soup.
Gradually stir in the Half & Half. Continue to heat until the soup is thick & heated through.
Serve with fresh ground pepper & bacon bits.