There is no family story for how or why I first made cheese soup. In fact, my husband is not a big fan of cheese so I never thought to create one for us. However, when I was making soups for Casler's, a restaurant in Fishers, the owner was a cheese lover and asked me to develop one for the menu. Some of the staff asked specifically for beer cheese soup, so I tried several variations and came up with the recipe here. It has proven to be a great comfort soup for winter.
We are fortunate to live in an area where we have local sources for high-quality cheeses and a growing number of good, local breweries. Shopping for ingredients is one of my favorite tasks because I get to go to some of those fun places. Of course, having to sample a variety of cheeses and ales to get the right combination enhances the whole experience.
For this soup, I prefer the combination of sharp Cheddar and Gruyere but I have substituted both Swiss and Stilton for the Gruyere. Pale ales seem to blend best with the cheeses and do not overpower the flavor of the soup like darker beers can. For garnish, bits of crisp bacon or diced Granny Smith apples are the perfect finish.
1. In soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat.
2. Add the onion, celery, garlic, ground mustard and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté the mixture for 15 minutes.
3. Sprinkle flour over vegetables and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
4. Add the chicken stock, Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce; simmer for 15 minutes.
5. Add the ale; simmer for 5 minutes.
6. Using an immersion blender, purée the soup until smooth. If you do not have an immersion blender, purée 2 cups at a time in blender or food processor.
7. Add the grated cheeses and cream to the pot and stir until completely melted.
8. Add salt and pepper to taste; add red pepper flakes if desired.
GET THE GOODS
Give this soup a local spin with beers and cheeses from our area. Check the websites for availability.
Pale ale: Keep an eye out for these bottled or canned beers made at area breweries: Osiris from Sun King (SunKingBrewing.com), Helios from Upland (UplandBeer.com), Gnaw Bone from Oaken Barrel (OakenBarrel.com). Or, grab a growler from a nearby brewery and sip the rest with dinner.
Sharp cheddar: Order sharp cheddar from SwissLand in Berne (SwissLandCheese.com), or pick up Käse, a raw, aged cheddar, from the Swiss Connection in Clay City (SwissConnectionCheese.com).