THE KITCHN: Cold weather favorite: Beer cheese soup
Beer Cheese Soup. (Nealey Dozier / November 14, 2013)
Beer cheese soup is a classic Midwestern recipe, but a lot of things can go wrong when making it. (Greasy blobs of cheddar, anyone?) Thankfully, I discovered a little trick that will guarantee that your next batch is silky, creamy perfection. Bring on the cold weather, because this recipe will definitely keep you warm.
The first time I attempted beer cheese soup was a few Christmases ago for a romantic night of tree trimming and indulgent eating. I had never tasted it before, but I just knew I was going to love it. I mean, it's booze and cheddar in slurpable form! Unfortunately, it didn't quite turn out like I expected. I recall it being thick, grainy and not at all good. In fact, my fiancÃ© later told me he had actually thought it was a dip.
Needless to say, I came into this next batch with a mission: to create the beer cheese soup of my always-hungry dreams. My goal was a rich, velvety soup jam-packed with cheddar flavor and soft undertones of a smooth and mellow lager. Was I asking too much? I don't think so.
I didn't want to go the Velveeta route -- I'm not opposed to it in small amounts, yet I know a lot of people are -- but I needed something to stabilize the soup without altering the flavor. I had an Aha! moment when I remembered my favorite homemade ice cream (from the fabulous "Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home" cookbook), which uses cream cheese in place of eggs. I applied that same theory to my beer cheese recipe, and I'm so glad I did. The cream cheese kept my soup soft and creamy, with no stringy blobs of cheddar in sight!
This version is warm and hearty, perfect for both the first autumn chill and the last winter snow. And I can tell you this much for sure: I know what I'll be serving for our tree trimming this year!
Beer Cheese Soup
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
1 small onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock
6 ounces lager beer (see notes)
4 ounces room temperature cream cheese
2 cups (8 ounces) freshly grated sharp yellow cheddar
2 cups (8 ounces) freshly grated sharp white cheddar