Okay, so it’s possible that this isn’t the kind of meal you eat before you do anything too strenuous, like run headlong into a burning schoolhouse to save dozens of screaming orphans. It’s probably not the kind of thing you want to have for dinner the night before your first day in basic training for the Marines. It may not be the kind of meal you settle down to the night before you run the New York City Marathon. It’s probably not an ideal meal for anyone looking to tackle a pre-dawn jog. It’s definitely not for anyone with any aspirations to, let’s say, make it into work on time. It’s not the kind of meal you eat if you have any pressing need to put on pants the next day. You know, this is not a meal for anyone who plans on ever actually getting out of bed. Let’s just say this, and then not speak another word about it: Save this supper for a night where your only major obligation is to continue the basic intake of oxygen and the expulsion of carbon dioxide from your bloated lungs and maybe, just maybe, to make sure “Teen Mom 2” is set to be DVR’d. Anything more involved than that may be entirely too ambitious.
Why is that? Because it’s a soup made of cheese and beer and bacon, for goodness’ sake. Any soup that uses “bacon pan scrapings” as one of its major flavoring agents just isn’t going to be that great for you. Calling it “soup” may even be lipsticking the pig, a little bit. This is a bowl of rich hot cheese. It’s liquefied Welsh Rarebit. It’s a lightly-spicy, soul-warming coppa d’oro. It’s excessive and gross and hedonistic and awful and everything-that’s-wrong-with-this-country and wonderful and delicious and heavenly and I’m eating another bowl even as I type this.
Use the best cheddar you can buy, since it’s such a major player in this soup, along with a decent brown ale, like Newcastle, or a pale ale like Bass. If you don’t like a lot of heat, scrape as much of the inside of the jalapeno as you can with the edge of a spoon before dicing. Top each bowl of soup with more bacon, jalapeno, or diced fresh tomato, and serve with plenty of crusty bread. And call me when it’s Springtime.
Brown Ale and Cheddar Soup
Adapted from a recipe from Food and Wine
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 celery rib, finely chopped
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped thyme
- 1 large jalapeño, ribbed, seeded and chopped
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- One 12-ounce bottle brown or pale ale
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 12-ounce package of thick-cut bacon, diced
- About 2 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 3/4 pound sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded
- Additional sliced jalapeño, bacon, thyme, and/or diced tomato, to garnish
1. In a large saucepan or dutch oven, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until the fat renders and the bacon is crisp, about 8 minutes.
2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to drain on a paper towel. Crumble any overly large pieces between your fingers, or chop quickly with a knife.
3. Add the celery, onion, jalapeño, garlic and thyme to the rendered fat in the saucepan.
4. Cook over moderate heat, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan, stirring often, until vegetables soften, about 8 minutes.
5. Add half of the beer and cook until reduced by half, 5 minutes.
6. Add 2 1/4 cups of chicken broth and return to a simmer.
7. In a small skillet, melt the butter.
8. Whisk in the flour and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes.
9. Whisk the roux into the soup until combined, and bring to a simmer. Cook until thickened, about 8 minutes.
10. Add the heavy cream, cheddar cheeses and the remaining beer and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and creamy, about 5 minutes.
11. Stir in the bacon and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.