Sunday, November 7, 2010

Beer cheese soup. Hold the chicken.

No, really, hold the freaking chicken.  I like poultry in a variety of presentations. Between marsala, cordon bleu and other variations, I think I've established that I have nothing against the bird and enjoy it frequently.

But there are some places where, in my less than humble opinion, it doesn't belong. In my clam sauce, for example, from a couple weeks ago. There was no reason to put chicken broth in a clam dish. I might add it to the sauce for my chicken cacciatore, but that dish is all about the chicken.

After cruising the web for a couple hours looking for the right beer cheese soup recipe to try, I almost threw in the proverbial towel. Over 90% of the recipes I found contained chicken broth. WHY? I was looking for a very specific flavor profile--beer, cheddar and a little bit of vegetables.

I was surprised to find a recipe for beer soup. Yes, beer soup. I would not lie to you. I may try it at a later date as an academic exercise, but don't look for it any time soon.

Also to my surprise, I ended up with one of Rachel Ray's recipes for this week's venture. I've never been fond of Rachel Ray. I can't handle that much perky. I am the anti-perky (you might have noticed I don't put up a lot of breakfast and brunch recipes). But I have checked out a few of her recipes and this one worked really well:

  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped 
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • One 12-ounce bottle amber beer, such as Dos Equis
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 10 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • Croutons, for garnish
I liked this ingredient list a lot. It depends on the beer for flavor, by asking for an amber as opposed to a Light or a "lite." A little mustard? Why not, though a bit of horseradish might also be interesting. A lot of the recipes I looked at wanted celery, which I like, but I like leeks much better and might not have thought of that on my own.

  1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the carrots and leeks, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until soft, 10 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes.
  2. 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, until creamy and thickened, about 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat. Whisk in the cheese 1 handful at a time until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with the croutons.
The instructions here are easy to follow. When you add the flour to the butter and vegetables it's going to clump up until you add the milk. Don't panic, it'll all thin out when you add the milk.

One important note: either made this ahead of the rest of your meal, make the rest of your meal ahead, or get some help in the kitchen. You really need to be whisking almost constantly. I served this with a salad and some turkey tenderloins and it made an excellent accompaniment. The leftovers were a main dish with a salad.

I think I might cut down to 1 large carrot and throw in a shallot instead. The suggestion to use gruyere instead also intrigues me. I'm saving that for a later dish.

Questions? Comments? Death threats? I'm all ears!


  1. When I don't want chicken but still need a broth or stock I've used store-bought vegetable stock instead. That way I get the liquid volume but with more flavor than just adding water.

  2. Vegetable stock can be a good option, mushroom broth can be great, but I tend to go with beer or wine.