The problem with most cheese soups is they seem more like a cheese dip than something you're supposed to eat with a spoon. I'm not sure if the issue is too much cheese or cream, but I wanted to make something that had the flavors of some spectacular real English cheddar, without feeling like I was snarfing down a pot of fondue. This recipe from Gourmet manages to balance the funky kick of a great cheese with a truly flavorful broth.
Though there are a few more ingredients than is normal for this column, the soup actually comes together remarkably fast. That's astonishing considering how layered and complex each bite is. The leeks, carrots, and celery form a slightly sweet base for the beer, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard, which really steal the show. They help give each sip a certain tang and attack, which only the cheese can help balance.
- 2 medium leeks, hard green parts and stems discarded, diced (about 2 cups)
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
- 2 celery ribs, diced (about 1 cup)
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 Turkish bay leaf
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 3/4 cups chicken broth
- 1 (12-ounce) bottle English ale
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 cups extra-sharp cheddar, grated
- 4 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
- crusty bread, sliced
Add butter to 4-quart heavy saucepan set over medium heat. When melted, add leeks, carrots, celery, garlic, and bay leaf. Cook for five minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
Turn heat to medium-low, and sprinkle in flour. Stir well with wooden spoon, and cook for three minutes. Whisk in the milk, broth, and beer in a slow stream. Turn heat to medium and bring to simmer, then reduce to medium-low. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt, and ground pepper. Stir well.
Add handful of cheese and stir until it melts. Continue adding cheese and stirring, until all cheese is incorporated. Make sure soup doesn’t come to a boil by turning down heat if necessary.
Discard the bay leaf. Serve soup in bowls with bread and crumbled bacon.