Beer and Cheddar Soup

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 flavorthe 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.

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Broccoli Cheddar Soup

It’s winter in Illinois. That should surprise no one.

That it has been a cold January should also surprise no one.

What do I like to eat when it’s cold out? Well, I like stews, braises and soups.  My wife is fond of Panera’s Broccoli Cheddar soup. So, as I am want to do, I try to recreate these things at home, because even though I am well employed, I’m also going back to school and, as everyone knows, going to school is expensive.

I’ve made this soup three or four times this year, and it has always had the same problem… Not cheesy enough.  So, each time I amp up the cheese. This last batch is pretty close. I should probably have it next time. It’s a tasty, filling soup that goes well with winter nights.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

2 medium or 1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup flour
6 cups chicken  broth (ovo-lacto vegetarians can use vegetable broth)
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
8 cups broccoli florets
2 large carrots, finely diced
24 oz shredded extra sharp yellow cheddar cheese
6 oz shredded gruyere
2 tbsp salt
pepper to taste

Over medium heat:
Melt the butter and sautee onions until soft, 6-8 minutes.
Add garlic and sautee for about 60 seconds, until the garlic starts to smell nutty.
Sprinkle the flour over the pan and stir to form a roux.  Cook until golden.
Pour in chicken/vegetable stock and whisk until the roux is dissolved. Add milk, cream, bay leaves, salt, pepper, and nutmeg,  and simmer until thickened, stirring regularly. When thickened, the liquid will coat the back of a wooden spoon.
add broccoli and carrots, and simmer until the vegetables are tender.
remove the bay leaves.
Add the cheeses, one handful at a time, stirring until the cheese is completely melted. Once all the cheese is melted, taste, and correct seasoning.
You can, if you wish, run a stick blender through the soup to puree some or all of the broccoli. I don’t. My wife thinks it pushes the broccoli flavor too forward in the soup. And, well, Panera’s soup doesn’t have the broccoli pureed;).

Makes about 8 servings.

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