Thursday, February 18, 2016

Best-Ever Cheese Soup

It is universally known that I have a cookbook addiction which I have no intention of beating. All 3,000 of them are my favorites at one point or another. In each instance when a new title arrives, I play favorites for a while – I know I shouldn’t but I do. Each title offers inspiration and can open up a whole new world of flavors.  

One book that I have cooked from over the last few years more than others is Amy Thielen’s The New Midwestern Table. I’m originally from the Midwest – near St. Louis – and Amy takes Midwestern fare and gives it a gourmet twist. 

Amy Thielen is a friend of mine who I respect for her kindness and talent. Amy is down-to-earth and an incredible chef. I started a cook through the book group (my first one ever) involving her title. I’ve made dozens of recipes from this book including Breaded Stuffed Pork Chops with Ham and Gruyere, Midwestern Fried Chicken and Gravy, Chicken Pot Pie with Bev's Crust but my favorite is the Best-Ever Beer Cheese Soup. We have eaten it as a soup and I’ve used the soup leftovers to make macaroni and cheese (which was spectacular) and as a cheese sauce for pretzel bite dipping.

On a snowy day here in Colorado, I made the Cheese Soup and it warmed our bones and fed our souls. I will use leftovers for dipping pretzel bites into this weekend.

I hope you will make this incredible recipe and enjoy it as much as we have.

Best-Ever Cheese Soup
By Jenny Blogging at The Cookbook Junkies
Adapted from a recipe by Amy Thielen
The New Midwestern Table

8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter
1 to 2 carrots, diced (about 1 cup)
1 medium onion, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock, low-sodium store-bought or homemade
One 12-ounce bottle beer, preferably a mild-flavored blond or pale ale
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
12 ounces aged yellow cheddar, grated
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Dash hot sauce
¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon of turmeric
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Mustard oil or extra-virgin olive oil, for garnish
Fresh goat cheese, for garnish
Fresh thyme leaves, for garnish
In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the carrots, onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt and sauté, stirring, until the vegetables are soft, about five minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for about two minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, until combined, about 5 minutes.

Add the chicken stock, beer and half-and-half, whisking often, cooking at a slow simmer over medium-low heat for 15 minutes. At this point, I use an immersion blender and puree the soup.

After the soup is pureed, add the cheddar by the handful, stirring after each addition until smooth. Add the Worcestershire, hot sauce, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, nutmeg, turmeric, red pepper flakes, mustard and lemon juice, and stir to combine. Once melted and creamy, taste to determine if the seasoning needs adjusting. Serve the soup garnished with a drizzle of mustard or olive oil, a dollop of goat cheese and sprinkle of thyme. I sometimes serve with crostini for dipping. So delicious!

To turn this soup into macaroni and cheese – I follow my basic macaroni and cheese recipe and use this as the cheese sauce – it works perfectly as the soup thickens after refrigeration. If need be, you can also thicken it up with a beurre manié. Just rub enough flour into softened butter to make a thick paste; then whisk little bits of the paste into the soup to thicken to make a consistency to add to cooked pasta.

To reheat leftovers of the soup, you can thin out if necessary with some warmed stock.

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