Sunday, October 11, 2009

Beer Cheese Soup with Custom Croutons 10/11/09

What a weekend this is going to be! FCT has a huge week coming up with its WLCE. Make sure and check it out when you have time. You might even win a Free Cruise! With the smell of college football and the crispness in the air, why not make some fall food. I love this time of the year! My inside cooking brain works at its best when it is frisky outside! My weekend will start off with a late night ESPN game. Matt and the Bulldogs will take on the Wolfpack from Nevada. I decided to make my Whine & Wangs for the game. I did not disappoint myself as they came out just spectacular. I kept getting wang sauce on my whine glass! The Bulldogs did not do as well as they came up short against Nevada. The season is still young my friends. Saturday will be my day to put my spin on a Wisconsin classic. Our food trail will take us down the path to Beer Cheese Soup. A little beer and cheese will not hurt anyone. The recipe I will be using is a recipe that Bryan Thomas gave me back in 2004. Bryan is the President of Thomas Reprographics and like me is food and wine junkie. We sort of take food ideas and modify them on the fly. Are you ready? I am! With all of my ingredients present and accounted for, I am ready to begin the process. The first thing that we need to do is prep our vegetables. You need to get 4 carrots, 5 stalks of celery with the lettuce looking things in the middle. Whenever you cook with celery make sure you include the lettuce looking things. That is where all of your celery flavor comes from. You will need a medium to large sweet onion and 5 to 6 garlic cloves. The last vegetable you will need is 1 beautiful Habanero. I am going to use 2 of them because I am only feeding myself and heat is my thing. Here is a funny little hot food story. Several years back Bryan and I were in Albuquerque for planning meeting for an upcoming Reprographics convention. The Fiery Foods Festival was going on at the same time and with our love for fiery foods we decided to attend. I kid you not you were in a hot sauce candy store. We sampled so many different things. Being on fire was an understatement. You know when they have a milk station you are in some trouble. If you ever get to attend one of these events make sure when they give you a toothpick or a spoon to taste their product that you do not pull out the toothpick or spoon with your lips closed. You will come out of there looking like you have red lipstick on. It was still a blast! Now that you have all of the veggies ready you need to slice and dice as you please. I cook a lot with enamel coated cast iron Dutch ovens and I will do the same today. They maintain a better constant heat in my opinion. You need to add some olive oil and sauté your veggies for 10 to 15 minutes. (Salt & Pepper to taste) My twist to the recipe is to sauté some andouille sausage. Whoever said a Cajun and a Cheesehead could not get along! The real way to eat beer cheese soup is to top it off with popcorn. Not! My crouton of choice will be andouille sausage and pork skins. You know, like letting the north and south touch each other! After your veggies have your house smelling good, you need to add 1/4 cup of flour. Make sure and coat the veggies good and cook for another minute or so. This is the step where the roux will start to take shape from. The next ingredient is the most important one. You must be very selective during this process and I would highly recommend a dark beer. I normally would use Guinness, but I had Shiner Bock on hand. There is nothing wrong with Shiner Bock. The next step is to add 1 1/2 bottles of beer to your veggies along with 24 plus or minus ounces of chicken stock. Don't use broth, get the good stuff. You could add all beer if you want, but I am staying close to Bryan's recipe. Cook all of this for 30 minutes or so at a slow boil. We want to get the veggies tender. The next part of the process involves blending. If you have a cooking boat motor then start pureeing until everything is completely blended. Since I do not have one of those gadgets I am going to let everything cool down some and move a little at a time to my stationary blender. Words of advice though, only fill your blender half way up. When blending hot liquids you will shoot your lid off if you are not holding it down good. I have been there and done that. Once everything is blended you will have this awesome yellow/orange looking soup base. It really looks and tastes good. You need to put all of this back into your pan and put your heat on low. We have a few more ingredients to bring to the party. Our next participants will be 8 ounces of heavy whipping cream and 16 ounces of cheese. The recipe calls for Colby Jack and that is what I am going to use. You can use any mixture of cheeses that you want. I can see mixing Smoked Gouda and a Fontina the next time I make this. You need to add your cheese slowly while stirring and melting. After all of the cheese is incorporated, add 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard and 3 table spoons of Worcestershire sauce and stir all of this in. If you need more salt then this would be a good time to do it. I figured I would let this all simmer on low so all of the flavors could get to know each other. I had some more habaneros left, so I got out my microplain/zester grater thing out and zested one more habenero into the soup. Just make sure you wash your hands good when you are done. Otherwise you might have something on fire that you do not want too. Been there and done that one too. I have waited long enough and it is time to plate up. Soup hits the bowl and my andouille sausage and pork skin croutons make their way on top. All of this garnished with another habenero. No I did not eat it. It was just for presentation. All I can say is Wow! What an amazing full of taste bowl of soup. This is Fall Food at its finest! You know you have seasoned it well when you get a little burn deep in the back of your throat and your nose won’t quit running. Bryan, all I can say is thanks for sharing your recipe with me. I had a blast making it. You all know that I am crazy when it comes to food! I never know where my mind is going to take me. I hope you too will one day get to share your version of Beer Cheese Soup with your family and friends! Find something you enjoy and just do it! Have fun and smile! You never know what tomorrow will bring! Until next time, "Cookin' with John" will be playing with some more food ideas to share with you!