23 January 2012

Cheddar Beer Soup - warming the winter's chill

Have a recipe to share!

It was a snowy day Saturday so I decided to make a quick meatloaf for dinner and to enjoy as leftovers for sandwiches during the week (one of our favorites, on onion rolls - yum!) 
But it also felt very much like a "soup-cooking-on-the-stove" kind of day, so I cozied up to my cookbook corner and spent a little time with a few of my soup cookbooks to see what enticed me.

What spoke to me was Cheddar Beer Soup.  I almost ordered it from a restaurant menu recently and have been thinking about it ever since.  Something about the creamy-ish texture and the combination of flavors appeals to me.

Here's the recipe - adapted from the one on the Epicurious website after reading a lot of the reviews and checking what I had in my frig and pantry to work with.  I had just purchased a block of good Irish cheddar at Trader Joe's and knew that would be a great addition.

Cheddar Beer Soup 

2 medium leeks (white and pale green parts ), cut into slices ( about 2 cups)
2 medium carrots, sliced (1 cup)
2 celery ribs, also sliced(1 cup)
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1/2 California bay leaf
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter 
1/3 cup all-purpose flour 
2 cups 2% milk 
1 3/4 cups chicken broth (14 fl. oz.)
1 (12-oz) bottle ale (I had Harpoon IPA) 
1-1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce 
1 teaspoon dry mustard 
1 teaspoon sea salt 
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
1 lb. extra-sharp Cheddar (the Irish cheddar was wonderful!), grated (4 cups)

1.  Wash leeks in a bowl of cold water, agitating water, then lift out leeks and drain in a colander.
2.  Cook leeks, carrots, celery, garlic, and bay leaf in butter in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, about 10 minutes. 

3.  Using a hand-held stick blender, process the vegetables till the texture is a thick paste with small chunks in it. (or to the consistency you desire - I wanted a little chunkiness from the veggies.)

4.  Reduce heat to moderately low and sprinkle the flour over the vegetables, then cook, stirring occasionally, 3-5 minutes. 
5.  Add milk, broth, and beer in a stream, whisking, then simmer, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt, and pepper. 

mise en place!
6.  Add cheese by handfuls, stirring constantly, and cook until cheese is melted, 3 to 4 minutes (do not boil). Discard bay leaf. 
7.  The finished product - slightly chunky, full of flavor, a nice piquancy because of the beer, I imagine.  A very satisfying soup - and the colors are pretty too!

I'm happy to have a bay leaf plant to pull fresh leaves from whenever I wish - an older plant of mine, who loves a sunny window spot in the wintertime, but prefers the garden (natch!) when the weather allows.

Pretty, Glossy Leaves - full of flavor
A soup I hope you'll try, and let me know what you think - the quality/sharpness of the cheese and the variety of beer will create some flavor variations, but I think it's a "keeper".  Enjoy!

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