Sunday, August 22, 2010

In The Kitchen With Stonekettle Station

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’re welcome.




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).

1 egg
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.


  1. Tillamook cheese is the only cheese.

  2. Testify, brother! Nice to know there are other devotees of True Soup out there.

    Not monkeying with *this* recipe, but a good technique for *other* soups is to divide your mirepoix into two piles, then sautee one half until caramelized and a nice fond is developing in the pan, deglaze with the chicken broth (or whatever you're using), and then put the raw half of the mirepoix veggies into the broth. This way you get two distinct flavors from each of the onion, carrot, and celery and the resulting soup has more depth and complexity.

  3. I'm making homemade French Onion soup Wednesday night. You may envy me and my guests.

  4. As long as I've been lurking, it is only this post which makes me comment: Be sure to spell Tillamook correctly. We Oregonians sure love our Tillamook products. My brother is stationed in Japan, and they got some Tillamook Extra Sharp and Smoked Cheddar in at one point, and my sister-in-law made sure to pick up as much as she could.
    Oh, and it all sounds delicious.

  5. Consider me properly chastised, Anon. There's no excuse, of course, even the spell checker knew how to spell it properly - I just ignored it.

  6. I assume you make your own chicken broth?

    And don't bring the broth to a boil, keep it below 190 F. Visually this means one bubble every couple of seconds. Bad, I mean bad, things happen to meat products above 190 so avoid it when possible. (It isn't possible if you can your own broth.)

    kisms - what I have no interest in doing with Jim

    @ PaulM, wrong weather for onion soup, but I use Keller's recipe, starting with beef bones.

  7. I'm sorry - did I just hear you advising people that it's okay to use artificial crab for crab cakes?


    Such blasphemy will not be ignored for long.

    You should use blue crab, claw meat is preferable. I buy the kind that comes in a foil pouch, but using the artificial crap may be grounds for caning.

  8. PaulM- Don't listen to Warner, it's always the right weather for good French Onion Soup!!

    and Janiece - Jim would probably enjoy the caning...just sayin.

  9. What the hell is wrong with you?

    Artificial crab meat? You've apparently been blown up too many times and have suffered permanent damage.

    Also? Onion? Garlic? NO. Just NO.

    You get jumbo lump crab meat--lump s ok, jumbo lump is better.

    Go through it for shells, removing any pieces you find.

    Crab cakes should contain crab meat, mustard, parsley, and a tiny amount of binder (I can't remember if Grandmom uses egg or mayo).

    You don't put spices and shit in your crab cakes, if you do that, you can't taste the crab, at which point, why the hell are you bothering?

    Those are TRUE Md style crab cakes. Crab, and some stuff to hold 'em together. Broiled is best, but pan fried is also good.

  10. Forget caning, I'll just tell Grandmom what Jim considers "crab" cakes and let her take it from there.

  11. When I saw this title I got all excited because I thought you went and used all those fine ingredients I sent you... :D

  12. "remove the bay leaf" You bet! Bay leaf is the magical, demon spice we can't do without. I have a wonderful Irish stew recipe that requires a bay leaf heated in the olive oil at the start, and you leave it in. I tried tripling the recipe. Tripled the bay leaf - totally inedible, drive you from the house stew resulted. As far as I have been able to determine, the right amount of bay leaf for ANY amount of stew is just 1. Always.


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