Sharp cheddar, flavorful ale and a pork product: three ingredients that bring joy to the hearts of many individually and when combined are simply sublime. Browsing around Pinterest a few months ago, I came across this delicious sounding soup from Closet Cooking. Of course, I had to wait till the weather cooled to try it out a couple times, and it’s every bit as good as it sounds. As always, I made a few adjustments to suit my tastes (and hopefully yours).
This can be kept thick for a game day dip or thinned out for a more traditional soup. You definitely will taste the ale, so use something that you like with a nice body. Try a brown ale or one of the many spiced seasonal brews out there for the holidays. You can also play around with the cheeses. I used a mixture of sharp cheddar and some “Seriously Sharp” white cheddar from Cabot. You really can’t go wrong here. But it’s quite rich, so keep that in mind with who you’re serving this to and what you may want to accompany it. Definitely have some freshly baked bread on hand for dipping. Or if you want to get fancy, serve it in a bread bowl.
Bacon, Ale and Cheddar Soup
8 slices of bacon (or 4 oz of pancetta)
4 cups of extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 Vidalia onion
1 stalk of celery
2 jalapenos, thinly diced and seeded
1/2 tbsp of fresh thyme
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups of vegetable broth
1 tbsp of dijon mustard
1/2 cup of 1/2 and 1/2 or heavy cream
1 tsp of worcestershire sauce, if desired
2 tbsps of butter
2 tbsps of flour
1 bottle of ale
Freshly ground black pepper
1 loaf of sourdough bread
In a food processor, combine onions, celery and carrots so they are diced thin. (I tried it without the food processor, and it’s a chunkier soup, which I did not prefer with the cheese. If you want to try it the other way, cook the veggies for about 10 minutes instead of the 3 minutes noted below.)
If using bacon, cook until crisp and set aside, reserving 2 tbsps of fat for cooking. (You can either cook bacon in the saucepan or in a separate pan or microwave.)
In large saucepan over medium heat, saute it with the leek either in bacon fat or with pancetta for 4 minutes. (I like to cook with the pancetta and add bacon on top later.) Add onions, celery and carrot mixture. Saute for 3 minutes. Add 1 and 1/2 jalapenos for a little heat, garlic and thyme. Saute for 2 minutes.
Add butter until it melts. Then stir in flour until blended. Gradually add ale and then broth, stirring to mix thoroughly. Cook for about 10 minutes. Then stir in the mustard, cream and worcestershire. Gradually add in the cheese until melted through and smooth. Keep heat constant but do not let it boil (or cheese will separate).
Season with salt, pepper and a few dashes of cayenne to taste. Top with some crumbled bacon and jalapenos, if desired. Serve with the beer you used for cooking and a loaf of fresh bread, preferably a rosemary sourdough round if you can find it. Yum!