When I made cheddar cheese soup a couple of months ago, I had a hard time choosing between two recipes. I went with the classic "best ever" cheese soup recipe from Cook's Illustrated rather than the super simple variation from Everyday With Rachael Ray. To treat myself for Valentine's Day I decided to give the other recipe a try. Good thing I did because I prefer this velvety version! Flavored with leeks instead of celery and beer instead of sherry, this soup has a wonderful cheesy taste. Mustard adds depth and its slight tang offsets the beer. For garnish I made heart-shaped croutons! To see how I made this soup, read more.



Cheddar Beer Soup
From Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine

5 tbsp. butter
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup flour
3 cups milk
One 12-ounce bottle amber beer, such as Dos Equis*
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
10 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 3 1/2 cups)
Croutons, for garnish

  1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
  2. Add the carrots and leeks, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until soft, 10 minutes.

  3. Add the flour and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes.

  4. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly.

  5. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the beer and mustard and bring the soup to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, whisking, until creamy and thickened, about 10 minutes.

  6. Remove the pan from the heat. Whisk in the cheese 1 handful at a time until combined.

  7. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with the croutons.

Serves 4.

*I couldn't find Dos Equis so I used Pacifico.



Croutons
From Inger Bareilles

7 slices thick white bread, crusts removed
2 tbsp. melted butter
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. garlic, minced
1 tbsp. fresh thyme, minced
salt and pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Slice the bread into small cubes, about half-an-inch by half-an-inch.
  3. In a large bowl toss the bread cubes with the butter, oil, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Toss well to coat all of the bread pieces.
  4. Spread out on a baking sheet covered with foil.
  5. Bake in the oven, checking often for 20-25 minutes.
  6. Remove and let cool 5 minutes. Serve in a bowl alongside the cheddar cheese soup.