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Beer Cheese Soup is a cold-weather favorite

| Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Nealey Dozier
Beer Cheese Soup

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 fiance 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!

Nealey Dozier is a writer for TheKitchn.com, a blog for people who love food and home cooking

Beer Cheese Soup

4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter

1 small onion, diced

1 large carrot, diced

2 ribs celery, diced

3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup all-purpose flour

4 cups chicken stock

6 ounces lager beer

4 ounces room-temperature cream cheese

2 cups (8 ounces) sharp yellow cheddar, freshly grated

2 cups (8 ounces) sharp white cheddar, freshly grated

1 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Kosher salt and white pepper, to taste

In a large Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery, and cook until soft and translucent, for about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Stir in the flour and cook until thick and lightly toasted, for about 2 minutes. Whisk in the chicken stock and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 40 to 45 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, discarding the vegetables.

Return the stock mixture to the Dutch oven and return to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat. Add the beer, followed by the cream cheese and handfuls of cheddar, whisking constantly until the cream cheese is smooth and the cheddar is melted. Make sure the mixture never comes to a boil; boiling will cause the cheese to separate.

Stir in the milk, Dijon and Worcestershire sauce and bring back to a gentle simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with toasted pretzel bread and additional shredded cheese, if desired.

Makes 6 servings.

To make the soup in advance: Cook through the steps making the vegetables, roux and stock. Strain the vegetables out and refrigerate. When ready to finish, bring to a simmer and add the beer and cheese, followed by the remaining steps.

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