Today just felt like a soup day.
I mean, some days I just want soup. Now, when I say soup, I’m not talking soup from a can, a box, or a packet. I’m not talking about something you make in 30 seconds or less. I talking about soup. Soup, real soup takes effort and hours, it’s homemade and full of goodness, liberty, and truth. We’re talking about a hearty soup that is a meal, not something you microwave for lunch and eat with a handful of Fritos.
That’s what I’m talking about here.
Soup is something I do particularly well. I start thinking about it days in advance. Hmmmm I feel soup coming on. Ooooo, what kind? What kind? Maybe broccoli? Or twice baked sour cream potato? Chicken with homemade egg noodles? Clam chowder?
Today it felt like cheese.
Yep, the more I thought about it, it felt like a cheddar cheese soup day.
Now, there’s an art to making a decent cheddar cheese soup. There are a thousand recipes. Most suck. About half will produce something that strongly resembles the glop rednecks pour over nachos at a tractor pull and most of the rest gives you something that ought to be in a fondue pot or used to waterproof log cabins. Cheddar cheese soup done right has a smooth yet grainy mouthfeel and smells of perfectly aged cheese and freshly risen bread.
Here’s my recipe for Cheddar Cheese Soup. Do not monkey with this recipe, for it is perfect. I’m warning you. Seriously, the Soup Nazi was a pansy compared to me.
2 tablespoons butter
1 small white onion (diced, about 1 cup)
5 carrots (diced, about 1 cup give or take)
5 big ribs of celery (diced, about 1 cup)
Crimini/Brown Mushrooms (diced, about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 pinch of kosher salt
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 bottle Newcastle Brown Ale (Don’t even think about trying to substitute something else. Newcastle or go home and open a can of Campbell’s).
1 cup thick buttermilk
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 ½ pounds of Tillamook Extra Sharp Cheddar (shredded) (Yes, yes, sigh, if you can’t get Tillamook because you suck, well substitute a very good extra sharp cheddar. Also, you should weep for your misfortune. Personally, I’d move to the west coast, but that’s just me).
Melt butter in large heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, and salt. Sweat the vegetables for 5 to 10 minutes or until they begin to soften, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms and garlic, sprinkle the flour over the vegetables, stir, and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes.
Gradually add the chicken stock and bring to boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and add the bay leaf. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
Remove bay leaf. Remove the bay leaf. Remove the bay leaf.
The following step can be done using an emersion blender, but I don’t have one of those. What I do have is a large countertop blender. Either method works fine, but personally I find the countertop blender easier since it leaves both my hands free to add ingredients. If you use the countertop blender, remove the broth from the heat first and allow it to cool for ten minutes before pouring it into the blender. Whichever method you use, puree the broth and vegetables, leave no chunk unliquefied. Once the broth is smooth, reduce speed and add the buttermilk (slowly), Worcestershire sauce, and the white pepper. Blend thoroughly.
Return to the soup pot and set over low heat.
Take a healthy slug of the Ale and slowly stir the rest into the soup.
Slowly bring the soup up to just below a boil. Let simmer for ten minutes. Stir periodically. Try to resist eating the soup as it is right now. Yes it smells good, but it will be better with the cheese.
Gradually add the cheese, one handful at a time sprinkling over the top of the soup. Then stir until blended before adding next handful. Do this until all the cheese is mixed in. RESIST the urge to add too much cheese at one time.
That’s it. It’s soup.
Serve hot with sourdough bread.
Or better yet, serve with crab cake sandwiches.
You don’t know how to make crab cakes?
You’re like helpless children here. Seriously.
1lb lump crab meat. Pulled and picked. Canned is fine, but for crying out loud spend a little extra and buy the good stuff which should be mostly claw meat. (Also, turns out you can actually use those artificial crab legs, which are usually made from Haddock, they taste just fine. Be sure to pull the meat apart into small pieces though).
¼ cup mayo
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning (don’t skimp, more is better)
¼ cup onion (chopped fine)
2 cloves garlic (chopped fine)
1 cup small dried bread cubes (better yet, use a cup of Stovetop Stuffing, seriously)
Dried breadcrumbs for coating.
Did you say something? Well, speak like you got a pair, I’m half deaf you know. What? Oh, yes, that. Green peppers. Yes, traditionally crab cake from misguided socialist shitholes such as Maryland have a big old helping of chopped green peppers added. I hate that. I think the texture of green peppers are all wrong for crab cakes and the taste of the green pepper just takes over. But if that’s what you want, by all means, toss in a 1/4 cup of chopped green pepper – then go out back and hit yourself in the head with a hammer, it won’t do much for the crab cakes, but it will amuse me and that’s what matters.
Sweat the onions in a tablespoon of olive oil or butter until cooked through. Cool.
Break the crabmeat into small pieces, pick through it for shell and gristle bits (remove those, just in case that’s not obvious). In a large mixing bowl toss together the crabmeat, garlic, and Old Bay until completely mixed. In a separate bowl beat together the egg, mayo, mustard, and lemon juice until thoroughly mixed. Then add to the crabmeat mixture and blend completely. Add the bread cubes, mix completely. Cover and let stand in the fridge for at least an hour.
Divide into six portions (I use a disher for this). Press together and flatten on a plate of bread crumbs, ensuring that each cake is fully coated. Flatten and shape so that the cakes are a uniform thickness.
Fry carefully in a mixture of hot olive oil and butter, flipping once carefully with a thin flat spatula, until both sides are golden brown and crispy.
Serve on soft rolls with homemade dill/tarragon tarter sauce and a dark bitter green like arugula.