I don’t know when I tried the Food & Wine version of Jonathan Erdeljac’s Beer-and-Cheddar soup. But it sure was tasty. I’ve been futzing with this recipe off and on ever since, probably 2 years or more. It’s great for any cold winter night and it doesn’t take terribly long to make. I love the smoky undertones in this soup.
1/2 of smoky bacon, cut into 1/3 inch dice
1 celery rib, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 large jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped thyme (use 1 teaspoon if you use dried thyme)
One 12-ounce bottle of lager or ale (Erdeljac recommended lager or pilsner, but I think tend to use either Honey Brown lager or a smoky ale of some sort)
2 1/4 cups low sodium chicken broth
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 cup heavy cream
8-12 oz sharp yellow cheddar cheese, grated
4 oz smoked cheddar cheese (Look for a good smoked cheese. I would skip the ones that are artificially flavored with smoke flavor…the smoke tends to be out of balance with those).
salt and pepper to taste
In the pan you are going to use for the soup, cook the bacon over moderate heat until the fat has rendered out and the bacon is crisp. (Don’t let your bacon burn!) Transfer the bacon to a bowl.
Add the celery, onion, jalapeno, and thyme and cook over moderate heat until the vegetables are softened. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Add half of the beer and cook until reduced by half. Add 2 cups of the chicken broth and bring to a simmer.
In a small skillet, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook over moderate heat until lightly browned and the roux starts to smell nutty. Whisk the roux into the soup, then rinse the skillet into the soup with the remaining chicken broth. Stir until the roux is completely dissolved and cook until thickened.
Add the cream and remaining beer. Stir the cheese into the soup a handful at a time, waiting until the cheese is completely melted before adding the next handful. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the soup is thick and creamy. Add the bacon and season. You can thin the soup with a few more tablespoons of chicken broth if it seems too thick.
Serve with garlic toasts or grilled cheese sandwiches for a satisfying winter meal.