Yes, yes, it’s the first week of the new year and you all have resolutions about eating healthier, exercising and being the perfect you. However, sometimes you need to treat yourself, and those around you, to a warm comforting bowl of fat. Don’t worry, it has vegetables in it too!
Beer cheese soups have been taunting me for quite some time. I hit the jackpot by picking this one from Serious Eats. We enjoyed a big bowl for dinner along with beer brats and red cabbage (recipes coming Monday) before heading off to a hockey game. True confession: a late night craving forced me to dip pretzels into the cold soup. It was very very good.
I left my guy behind on Christmas morning (don’t judge!) and flew north to visit my family. While I was gone he made his way through the rest of the pot and said it got even better with age. He also reported that jalapeno corn crackers make an excellent topping.
It’s important to select the right beer for this soup. If you like light malty lagers (the industry giants) they will probably work well, but they won’t add much flavor. The recipe suggested Bass Ale, but I wanted to buy American so I chose Sam Adams Boston Ale. The soup was delicious but there was a slight bitterness in the background. Next time, I’ll probably use a dark malty beer like a porter or stout, or maybe a Scotch ale, and see how that works. I want to enjoy the flavor and depth of a good beer, without that hint of hoppiness or dryness in the background. I’d prefer a sweeter or maltier flavor to emerge.
Oh darn, it looks like I’ll have to make it again for experimentation purposes.
Beer Cheese Soup
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter – you could substitute oil for 2 of the tablespoons, but with four cups of cheese, will it really matter?
- 2 medium leeks, use only the white parts, diced – compost or save the green parts for homemade stock
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
- ½ red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
- 2 celery ribs, diced
- 1-2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 large bay leaf
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1-3/4 cups chicken broth – have more on hand if you wish to lighten the soup a bit when it’s done
- 12-oz bottle beer – something malty with deep flavor, avoid hoppy bitter beers
- 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
- 4 cups extra-sharp cheddar, grated
- Optional toppings – bacon, green onions, pickled jalapenos, jalapeno corn crackers or your choice of cracker flavor
Add butter to a large heavy pot or dutch oven set over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the leeks, carrots, red bell pepper, celery, garlic and bay leaf. Cook for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
Turn the heat to medium-low and sprinkle in the flour. Stir well and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Whisk in the milk, broth and beer in a slow stream. Turn heat to medium and bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Add Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt, ground pepper and red pepper flakes. Stir well. Add a handful of cheese and stir until it melts. Continue adding cheese, stirring and waiting until one handful melts before you add the next. Make sure the soup doesn’t come to a boil; turn down the heat to low if necessary — I had to do that. You only want a light simmer.
When you’re ready to serve your soup, fish out and discard the bay leaf. Serve it plain or garnish it with chopped cooked bacon, chopped green onions, pickled jalapenos, jalapeno corn crackers or your choice of cracker flavor.
If you want to make the soup ahead of time, keep it warm (on the lowest setting) in a slow cooker. It does reheat well after refrigeration and a good stir.
It’s also good for dipping pretzels, sort of like a chile con queso. I can also imagine, oh this is evil, combining it with pasta for a turbo macaroni and cheese. Or is that gross? Now you know how I think.
Original recipe: Cheddar Beer Soup, Serious Eats
Update: I was just reminded by my friend Thomas Vincent that The Session, a monthly beer blogging event, is featuring Cooking with Beer posts this month. Check out my “cooking with beer” tag for even more recipes that include beer.