Friday, October 21, 2011

Beer-and-cheddar soup: a recipe

Beer-and-cheddar soup
One of the things I love about fall and the weather turning cooler is that soup is back in the recipe rotation.

Not that I don't enjoy summer soups, such as gazapacho or fresh tomato bisque, but the hot-and-hearty soups of fall and winter are pure comfort food.

And speaking of pure comfort, howzabout a beer-and-cheddar soup?

Beer-and-cheese soup recipes probably fall into the same category as homemade pasta sauce: every family has one and each thinks its is the best. So I'm not claiming this is the best-ever, ultimate, cheesiest or what have you: it's just the one that came across my path via the November issue of Food and Wine magazine.

But I had to modify it a bit, just to be able to live with myself.

I admit, I love cheese. And bacon. And cream. And beer. But when a recipe calls for all of those, in large quantities, together in one dish, I get a little scared. It's the Cooking Light devotee in me, I guess; I'd rather not be responsible for serving a stroke-on-a-plate (or in this case, in a bowl) to my family.

Don't be too alarmed, though. My version is still not all that healthy, it's just a wee bit less un-healthy. Still full of bacon, cheese and beery-creamy goodness, just a wee bit less.

Yes, I buy beer based on the label

I don't think you'll miss the excess. Mr. Ninj certainly didn't.

So if you want the full-fat, artery-clogging version, stick to the original recipe (from Jonathon Erdeljac's restaurant Jonathon's Oak Cliff in Dallas). If you'd like to only clog your arteries a little bit today and still enjoy a hearty, flavorful soup, enjoy The Ninj's version below.

Beer-and-Cheddar Soup (adapted from Jonathon Erdeljac and Food and Wine)

4 oz. bacon, diced
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
12 oz. lager
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
1 cup half-and-half
4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
4 oz. smoked cheddar cheese, grated (I used a maple-smoked cheddar, which was even better!)
Salt and pepper

In a soup pot or dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat until just crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove the cooked bacon and set aside. To the same pan (with the bacon drippings), add the celery, onion, jalapeƱo, garlic and thyme and cook over medium heat until vegetables are softened (about 8 minutes). Add half of the beer and cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a simmer.

In a small skillet or saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Whisk the flour mixture into the soup and bring to a simmer. Cook until thickened, about 8 minutes. Add the half and half, cheeses and the rest of the beer and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and creamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in the bacon and season to taste with salt and pepper.

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