Monday, September 20, 2010

Finally Fall: Cheddar Cheese Soup

This afternoon a huge rainstorm blew into town. We’d had a big storm about a week ago, and our back yard fence (which was flattened by 40-mph winds) was just rebuilt a few days ago, so naturally I was a little freaked out. Okay, more than a little. A lot freaked out. But I sat on our front porch and watched the rain, and after awhile a magical thing happened: I remembered how much I love the rain. 

And then another magical thing happened: the wind shifted, and the rain came in under the porch roof, and I started feeling cold. 

In south Texas, this is no small thing. It calls for a celebration. 

Believe me when I say this Cheddar Cheese Soup is food fit for a celebration. It’s rich, it’s creamy, and slightly spicy. It’ll warm you right up on a chilly day. It’s easily customizable—you can top it with anything from crumbled bacon to chives. Personally, I like a little dollop of sour cream and a few seasoned croutons. If you’re a vegetarian, you can swap out the chicken broth for vegetable broth. And, if you want, you can add more vegetables (broccoli, potatoes, what have you) for a fiber and nutrition boost: just make sure they’re chopped into small pieces and add them with the carrots, then let everything sauté until tender. 

I like to use sharp white cheddar for this soup, because the contrast between the veggies and the broth is so nicely fallish. If you prefer yellow cheddar, knock yourself out. The color scheme is in your hands.


Cheddar Cheese Soup


½ stick butter (4 T.)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 minced garlic cloves
1 cup diced carrots
1 medium red pepper, chopped
¼ cup flour
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
4 cups chicken broth
1 can evaporated milk
2 ½ cups grated sharp cheddar


In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat; add the onion, garlic and carrots. Sauté this mixture 3 or 4 minutes, then add the red pepper. Cook for another 3 or 4 minutes, until the carrots and peppers are tender.

Sprinkle the flour and red pepper over the veggies and stir. When the flour has mixed with the butter and started to bubble, slowly whisk in the broth. Then stir in the evaporated milk. Bring the mixture just to a boil—you'll see big bubbles coming to the surface at the center of the pot—stirring the whole time. Turn down the heat and let this mixture cook for another 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until it's thick.

Finally, add the cheese a handful at a time, stirring until each handful melts. Don't let the soup come to a boil at this point or the cheese will separate. Top each serving with a dollop of sour cream, some croutons, chopped chives, crumbled bacon, or whatever sounds good.

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