Thursday, October 8, 2009

Cheddar Ale Soup

If you like hot weather and you live in the Midwest, 2009 was pretty crappy. A chilly summer, and so far one of the coolest openings to October on record. You gotta love Tom Skilling and his ability to always rank something. There is a reason he has reached cult status.

I guess the two weeks with no rain in September was our summer. Sweet. Good thing I am not a super fan of hot weather. 2009's September? 5th driest on record. (data from Midway airport since 1928)

Today is 53 F and rainy, the perfect background to cook up a big batch of Fat Tire Cheddar Soup. I'll actually embrace the shitty weather if I can eat things like this. Comfort food? Everything you eat should be of comfort in some fashion. If not, why are you eating it?

I like to double or even triple the recipe. The texture will not be as smooth when reheating, as the cheese gets a little stringy, but I'm okay with that. Having a little hidden away in the freezer for a quick snack or hearty lunch is not a bad thing.

This recipe is definitely starting in the right direction with two of my favorite things-

If you have a food pro, shredding your own cheese is much more flavorful than pre-shredded. Plus making salsa would be a pain in the ass, so get a food pro if you don't have one. But only if you have a dishwasher too.

Fat Cheddar Soup

serves 4-6

4 TB unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
1/3 C AP flour
1 3/4 C milk (1% for me)
1 3/4 C chicken stock (homemade preferred, or you can Sandra Lee that shit and go semi-homemade by flavoring some store-bought, see the chicken wing post.
12 ounces Fat Tire beer
1 TB Worcestershire
1 ts mustard powder
1 1/4 lb. sharp cheddar
S&P, to taste
1/4 ts cayenne powder

In a large stockpot over medium heat, melt the butter and sweat the mirepoix until very soft, about 10-12 minutes stirring occasionally. Mirepoix is frenchy for 2 part onion to one part celery and one part carrot, cut to 2 mm pieces. I like to add a little S&P to flavor things at this point. Not too much salt though, or there will be too much liquid drawn out and it will become soupy. Which is ironic, but not what you want yet, you don't want to boil your mirepoix.

Add the flour and stir constantly for 2-3 minutes, making sure all the flour is incorporated. Turn the heat up to medium-high and whisk in the milk and stock. You can keep the milk and stock slightly warm on a back burner to speed up the process of bringing this mixture to a boil.

Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat to a simmer, stir often for about 10 minutes, until thickened a bit.
Puree with a stick blender until smooth. Or, make a huge mess while using your blender. Curse and go buy a stick blender. Strain through two fine colanders or cheesecloth. I find cheesecloth way too intense, doubling up a few fine-mesh colanders is easier. (Straining is optional, but does improve texture) We're not trying to make baby food here, although if you did you'd have one damn happy baby. Jack? Lauren? Oh you guys can't read yet...
Return the soup mixture to the stove over medium heat. Add the ale, Worcestershire, mustard, and a little S&P. Simmer for a about 5 minutes, then turn down heat to low.

Add the shredded cheddar about a handful at a time, stirring to melt thoroughly after each addition. Check seasoning and adjust with more S&P if necessary. Ladle soup into bowls and dust with cayenne. Serve with some crusty bread and a cold beer. Enjoy the next 6 months of slippers and blankets! (there's a rumor this winter I can't keep my thermostat at 63 F, so the blanket might be optional)

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