This warming soup conjures English pub fare. The ale and seasonings add an aromatic and spicy tang that tempers the richness of the cheese. For the best flavor, use an extra-sharp Cheddar. Be careful not to let the soup boil once the cheese has been added, or the soup may become grainy.
Cheddar and Ale Soup with Crispy Shallots
1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml.) canola oil
4-6 shallots, thinly sliced
2 yellow waxy potatoes
1 yellow onion
2 ribs celery
2 carrots, peeled
4 Tbs. (2 oz./60 g.) unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup (2 oz./60 g.) all-purpose flour
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 cups (4 fl. oz./500 ml.) whole milk
1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml.) heavy cream
1 1/2 cups (12 fl. oz./375 ml.) low-sodium chicken broth
1 bottle (12 fl. oz./375 ml.) ale
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 lb. (500 g.) Cheddar cheese, shredded
In a frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the canola oil. Add the shallots and cook, turning once or twice, until crisp and golden, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Cut the potatoes into 1/2-inch (12-mm.) cubes; chop the onion, celery and carrots. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the potatoes, onion, celery, carrots and garlic, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring, until the onion, celery and carrots have softened and the potatoes are almost tender, 7-10 minutes. Sprinkle the vegetables with the flour, salt, paprika and cayenne and stir until the flour is lightly browned. Slowly add the milk, scraping up any bits clinging to the bottom of the pan. Pour in the cream, broth, ale, Worcestershire sauce and mustard, whisking constantly. Raise the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring, to allow the flavors to blend, about 5 minutes; be careful not to let the mixture boil. Add in the cheese and cook, stirring, until the cheese has just melted, 2-3 minutes.
Remove from the heat and puree with an immersion blender or puree in batches in a regular blender. Reheat just until steaming. Ladle into warmed bowls, garnish with the crispy shallots and serve at once. Serves 4-6.
Recipe from Williams-Sonoma Cheese, by Georgeanne Brennan.