Serious Eats

Cheddar Ale Soup with Pumpernickel Toast from 'Stewed'

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[Photograph: Nina Gallant]

Mention "cheese soup" and my mind immediately goes towards the neon orange cans of condensed Campbell's stuck between the chicken noodle and bean with bacon in the middle of the grocery store. But for Dave Becker, cheese is just another way to dress up soups in his new book, Stewed. Instead of attempting to incorporate cheese directly into his Cheddar Ale Soup, he melts it on top à la French Onion. Oh, and that soup base? It's made up of beer. Yes, beer. And bacon. If this combination seems a bit off the wall, consider what's often eaten with beer: cheese, bread, pork products, and mustard. All make an appearance in what is one of the strangest, yet strangely comforting bowls of soup I've made so far this winter.

Why I picked this recipe: Beer and cheese soup is way outside of my comfort zone but seemed worth an exploration (especially since the cheese goes on top, and not in, the soup).

What worked: Rye bread, cheese, and mustard are obvious pairings for beer; they work just as well in a soup as they do on an appetizer platter.

What didn't: I would have liked larger pieces of vegetables, or at least more of them, in the soup. As written, the bulk of the soup is a bit too brothy, even when the bread soaks up some of its liquid.

Suggested tweaks: If you don't have broiler-safe soup bowls, you may make a reasonable approximation by broiling the cheese toasts and floating them on top of the soup. Be sure to let the bread sit on top for a minute or so to allow it to begin to soak up the broth before digging in.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Stewed to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer out of Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, Berkeleyside NOSH, and blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.

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