For the last few weeks, when the Texas weather cycles between pleasant to bone chilling cold, I have been craving bowls of steamy hot soup. Let me begin by saying I have never been much of a soup person. It isn’t that I dislike soup, or that I think badly of soup, but when it comes to meals I am attracted to more substantial fare. However, this year I have been making, and greedily eating, soups for the first time since I was a child.
I began my soup rediscovery with Nigella Lawson’s superb Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup . After seeing her make it on her Christmas Special I could hardly resist. It is smooth, slightly sweet, and very filling. Perfect for a chilly winter night, and easily frozen.
Next I searched out a soup from my past … Cheddar Cheese Soup. When I was growing up in San Antonio there was a diner chain named Jim’s that made, at least in my mind, the finest soup ever created. It was a smooth cheddar cheese soup that I ALWAYS ordered regardless of season. I tried a few different recipes for his soup with limited success, and after dissecting a few recipes have come up with a soup that is in many ways better, and a little more sophisticated, than the one I grew up with. I would not use a stick blender with this soup as the texture will just not be as smooth as with a regular blender. I blend it for quite a while, three to five minutes per batch, so I do not have to strain it.
Cheddar Cheese Soup – Serves 4
2 teaspoons olive oil, not extra virgin
1 cup diced yellow onion
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups (16oz) chicken broth
1 1/2 cups (12oz) 2% milk
Salt and pepper, to taste
7oz sharp cheddar cheese
Hot sauce, to taste
Place a heavy bottom pan over medium heat and add the oil. Once it shimmers add the veggies and cook until tender.
Add the flour and mix until no clumps of white remain. Slowly add the chicken broth and whisk out any lumps. Season with salt and pepper then bring to a boil and cook until thickened.
Reduce the heat and stir in the milk. Bring to a simmer then remove from the heat.
In batches, blend the soup until very smooth and creamy. Return to the pot and bring to a boil.
Shut off the heat and add the cheese in three installments, making sure the first is melted before adding the next.
Add hot sauce to taste.