Well, we made it through the blizzard with a minimum of damage and a maximum of snow. But we didn't have the ice, we kept our power and heat, so for that, I'm very thankful. I hope that you all fared as well.
The minute that the winds shift into Autumn mode, the soup cravings start stirring, and when the temps dip into the minus range, it is time for some stick to your ribs bowls of delicious creaminess.
So I offer you today, the recipe for a Cheddar & Ale Soup with Pumpernickel or Rye Bread Croutons. This soup goes extremely well with a crisp salad.
First, make your croutons. If your bread if fresh, spread the slices of 1 loaf of your favorite Pumpernickel or Rye bread out onto jelly roll pans the day before, to dry out a bit. (the Pumpernickel is a fantastic flavor with this soup!) Turn them over to dry on both sides. (but don't let them get rock hard) It is easier to cut into cubes without crushing the bread. Put all of the bread cubes into a large mixing bowl.
Crush 1 Tblsp. Fennel Seed with a pestle & mortar, and pour it over one softened stick of butter. Slowly melt the butter, then slowly drizzle over the bread cubes, stopping frequently to stir and distribute the coated bread.
Spread bread cubes on a jelly roll pan and bake at 300 degrees F. for 1 hour, stirring them every 5 - 10 minutes to insure even baking and toasting. Let them cool completely, then bag them in a storage bag, so that they stay crispy.
While the croutons are baking, dice:
1 1/2 Cups Carrots
1 1/2 Cups Onion
1 1/2 Cups Celery
2 Cloves of Garlic
Put 1/2 Stick of Butter into a large stock pot, along with all of the veggies and cook slowly, until all of the veggies are soft.
Add 3 Cups of Chicken or Vegetable Stock, and 2 Bottles of English Ale (use one that has a robust flavor. .New Castle is a personal favorite) stirring well, to make sure that none of the veggies are stuck to the bottom of the pot.
1 Tblsp. Dijon Mustard
1 Teasp. Dry Mustard
2 Teasp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 Teasp. Tabasco Sauce
1/8 Teasp. Cayenne Pepper (I use Ancho Pepper Powder instead, for it's milder, smokey flavor)
Mix and reduce heat to let the soup simmer.
While the soup continues to simmer, cube 16 Ounces of a fine Cheddar Cheese. Please try a nice block of cheese, not the pre-packaged shredded variety. You won't believe the difference in flavors.
In a heavy saucepan, melt 1/2 Cup of Unsalted Butter. Add 1/2 Cup of flour, and using a whisk, keep stirring it over medium-high heat until the flour takes on a light golden brown color. (sorry that I don't have photos of this step, but I needed to keep a close watch on the pot. .it can burn very quickly!
Reduce the heat, and slowly add 1 Cup of Heavy Cream. Continue stirring with the whisk until the mixture thickens. Remove saucepan from the heat and add the cheese cubes. Stir with a spatula, melting the cheese completely. Turn the heat down to warm, and return the pot to the burner, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
Using a stick (immersion) blender, puree the veggies in the beer stock. Once it is completely smooth, slowly add the cheese sauce to the stock, blending it well with a spatula.
Heat through, adding sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste.
Garnish with snippets of green onion or chives, and the freshly toasted croutons.
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