Another big goal for me in my quest to consume less processed foods is to master homemade soups. There are always at least three cans of soup in my cupboard and usually a few cartons of tomato beside (tomato soup from a carton is worlds better than from a can, trust me). If I ever succeed in making all the soups I eat, I will not only be eating healthier but saving a good amount of cash while doing so – and that’s always a plus. However, first things first: I need to succeed in a single recipe before tackling all of my favorites.
Wisconsin Cheddar Beer Soup (from Cook’s Illustrated)
4 T unsalted butter (½ stick)
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2 carrots, peeled and chopped fine
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/3 C unbleached all-purpose flour
1 3/4 C low sodium chicken broth
1 12 oz. bottle of beer (Miller High Life recommended)
2 C milk (whole or lowfat)
12 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (~ 3 C)
4 oz. American cheese, shredded* (~ 1 C)
2 t cornstarch
salt and pepper to taste
popcorn, if desired (can anyone from Wisconsin confirm this? :D)
*Note: The source recipe is adamant that “You will need…cheese from the deli counter for this recipe; do not use presliced or packaged shredded cheese.” Well, I’m sorry Cook’s Illustrated, but I searched the local deli counters and, while they are packed with gorgeous cheeses from all over the world, none of them had American cheese in bulk. I suppose it’s not much in demand. I ended up using Cabot’s presliced American cheese, which I shredded after letting it firm up in the freezer for 15 minutes.
- Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion and carrots until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
- Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant.
- Stir in flour and cook about 1 minute more or until golden.
- Slowly whisk in broth, beer, and milk. Bring the mixture to simmer, then reduce heat to low and simmer gently. Do not boil. Cook for 20 – 25 minutes until carrots are very soft.
- Meanwhile, toss shredded cheese and cornstarch in a large bowl until well combined.
- Going back to the soup, use a submersion blender until the mix is completely smooth or, alternatively, puree in a blender in two batches. Return to a simmer over medium-low heat.
- Whisk in cheese mixture, 1 cup at a time, until smooth.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top soup with popcorn, if desired, and serve immediately.
Mmmm, this soup was as fun to eat as it was to make! I am not a beer fan (hard cider for me, thanks), but the light flavor of the Miller High Life balanced out the cheese perfectly and gave the soup depth. You can read Lynn Clark’s description of experimenting with different beers for this recipe in Cook’s Illustrated: Soups & Stews, Winter 2010 edition.
I used a white cheddar instead of the traditional orange, which would have camouflaged the little bits of carrot, but I kind of liked seeing the tiny orange flecks. I also completely forgot about the popcorn so I’ll have to try it next time. As my gateway recipe to the world of homemade soups, this Wisconsin Cheddar Beer Soup was brilliant! I’m already thinking of the ways I’d like to tweak it: bits of broccoli, chunks of potatoes, or maybe poured over a noodle bake? Oooo…
Overall Enjoyment: ♥ ♥ ♥