Recipe of the week: Use your slow cooker for this comforting soup

Rosemary adds such a wonderful aroma and flavor in cooking, but I’ve grown wary of using it because of the small needles that don’t soften much when they cook.

Mary Younkin, author of "The Weeknight Dinner Cookbook: Simple Family-Friendly Recipes for Everyday Home Cooking" (Page Street Publishing, $21.99), almost always uses ground rosemary, even if fresh is available, because the small pieces soften into the rest of the ingredients and don't stand out so much. You can replace the dried rosemary in the ingredients with 1 to 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, but make sure the pieces are minced finely, and you'll add it when pureeing the potatoes and ham in the blender.

Younkin reports that this forgiving soup is one of her son’s favorites and that she’ll often freeze leftovers in small portions to serve for lunch. If you don’t have any leftover ham on hand, any ham will work, even deli meat, but hold back on the salt until you’ve tasted it toward the end. You can always add salt, but you can’t take it away.

Slow Cooker Rosemary Potato Soup with Ham

3 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

1 lb. cooked ham, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, about 3 cups

1 small yellow onion, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces

4 cloves garlic, minced

6 cups chicken broth

1/4 to 1 tsp. kosher salt, to taste

1 tsp. dried thyme

3/4 tsp. ground rosemary

1/4 to 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 cup half-and-half or heavy cream

Optional toppings: Thinly sliced fresh chives and finely chopped fresh Italian parsley

Combine the potatoes, ham, onion, garlic, chicken broth, salt, thyme, rosemary and pepper in the slow cooker. Stir to combine and turn the cooker onto high or low and cover with a lid. On high, it should take 3 to 4 hours for the potatoes to soften; on low, it should take from 6 to 8 hours.

When the potatoes are fork tender, scoop about 4 cups of the cooked potatoes and ham into a blender, along with enough liquid to cover them. Blend until smooth and creamy, about a minute. Pour the thickened potato mixture back into the slow cooker along with the half-and-half. Reduce the heat to low. Serve immediately or let the soup simmer for an additional hour. Scoop into bowls and garnish with the optional toppings as desired. Serves 8 to 10.

— From "The Weeknight Dinner Cookbook: Simple Family-Friendly Recipes for Everyday Home Cooking" by Mary Younkin (Page Street Publishing, $21.99)