Thursday, September 8, 2011

Cheddar-Beer Soup

One of the best kitchen-gifts my husband ever purchased for me was my immersion blender. A regular blender is a great option for cold recipes, but I always burnt my hands trying to blend hot, creamy soups, and this handy gadget can go right in the pot. Of course, this fondue-like soup can be served un-blended if you prefer a chunkier texture.

A couple tips: Don’t be scared off by the addition of leeks – they’re just an overgrown scallion with a slightly sweeter flavor. Since cheese is the main flavor here, I usually try to go with a slightly “better” cheddar (think Sargento over Great Value).

3 tbsp. butter 
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 leek, finely chopped (look for it in produce – it looks like a giant scallion)
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup flour
3 cups milk
One 12-ounce bottle beer
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 ½ bags sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the carrots and leeks. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the beer and mustard and bring the soup to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, whisking occasionally, until creamy and thickened, about 10 minutes.

Optional step: With an immersion blender, blend until smooth (or blend in a blender in batches).

Remove the pan from the heat. Whisk in the cheese, one handful at a time until combined.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Great served with croutons or sourdough bread.

Serves 4-6.

Croutons
7 slices thick white bread, crusts removed
2 tbsp. melted butter
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. garlic, minced
1 tbsp. fresh thyme, minced
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Slice the bread into small cubes, about half-an-inch by half-an-inch.
In a large bowl toss the bread cubes with the butter, oil, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Toss well to coat all of the bread pieces.
Spread out on a baking sheet covered with foil.
Bake in the oven, checking often for 20-25 minutes.
Remove and let cool 5 minutes. Serve alongside soup.


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