I had plans to make something else this week, but something about the best laid plans of mice and men.
Bear with me as I get personal for just a second before getting into the recipe (I know, it’s widely mocked), but on Sunday night one of my two oldest cats had his first seizure and it was rather traumatic for us (he seems to be doing OK but it probably isn’t good news in the long run). This comes on the heels of learning less than two weeks ago that my other oldest cat has chronic health issues. So not only have I not been sleeping well but we’ve upped our medication routine lately, and of course, my anxiety.
This all means that while I had a vague idea of what I was going to make, I didn’t get around to it yet. Thankfully, my sweetie had plans to make one of his favorite seasonal soups, beer cheese soup. More importantly, he had the ingredients on hand. So, while he did some household chores, I made the soup.
It’s from Amy Thielen’s The New Midwestern Table, one of my favorite cookbooks, and the beer cheese soup recipe in it is one of our family favorites. It’s not the healthiest but its simple and quality ingredients make it seem kinda OK.
Because I trust Amy Thielen, I mostly follow her recipes with little alteration. The same is true in this case, except as it was approaching 9 p.m., I decided to skip the blending step. I know, it’s sacrilege to have chunky beer cheese soup, but it works for me. Mostly, I don’t love smooth soups. But also, after realizing that my diced veggies — as the recipe called for — weren’t that chunky, I figured I’d save myself the effort.
After all, it’s been the kind of week that calls for easy, comfort food.
Here’s what I did:
- 1 stick (8 T.) butter (I used unsalted even though the recipe calls for salted)
- 2 medium carrots, diced (dicing is less critical if you plan to puree)
- 1 large red bell pepper, diced (dicing is less critical if you plan to puree)
- ¾ c. all-purpose flour
- 4 c. broth (chicken or vegetable, preferably homemade)
- 1 (12 oz.) can/bottle of beer (the recipe calls for a pale ale, I used my staple of Hamm’s)
- 1 ½ c. half and half
- 12 oz. white cheddar, grated (good-ish stuff preferred)
- ½ T. Worcestershire sauce
- Hot sauce, to taste
- ⅛ t. ground nutmeg
- 2 T. Dijon mustard
- 2 T. lemon juice
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Mustard oil, for serving (optional but a delight)
- Thyme, for serving (fresh preferable but dry also works)
In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the carrots, peppers, and a pinch of salt, and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring regularly until well incorporated, about 5 minutes more.
Add the stock, beer, and half and half, and cook, stirring often, at a slow simmer over medium low heat. Cook for about 15 minutes.
Add the cheese by the handful, stirring after each addition until the mixture is smooth. Add in the Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, nutmeg, mustard, and lemon juice, and stir to combine.
Puree the soup in batches, if desired, being careful not to get hurt by the hot soup.
Just before serving, add salt and pepper, as needed, to taste. Ladle into bowls and garnish with a small swirl of mustard oil and a sprinkle of fresh thyme, and enjoy!