November Comfort

I started the day getting worked up hearing all about whimpering Republicans who still don’t get it.  Opinions, regardless of how misguided and proven wrong, still trump facts in the minds of the regressive.  And it was starting to get under my skin…

Not my porch.

But then…I walked into my living room, looked out the window, and all was forgotten.  Snow!  Beautiful, downy snow filled the sky, falling softly, slowly, and picture postcard-perfect.

The radio told of mayhem and disaster.  You’d think the city was under siege.  At my place, on the other hand, nothing but peace reigned.

I brewed a pot of coffee, toasted some bread, and chose to relax, staring out the window for ten or fifteen minutes, just taking it in.

And it doesn’t end there.

Grilled ham and cheese has been on my mind all day.  Comfort food.  And now that’s all but ready to go waiting for a hot cast iron skillet, but I decided to make a batch of beer cheese soup, too.  Beer cheese soup is a bit more complicated than it sounds, but with a food processor all things are easy.  Here’s how you do it:

First, don’t be thrown off by recipes that have you chopping anything…not for beer cheese soup.  You quarter a few key ingredients and toss them into your food processor.  Or, if you don’t have a food processor, you grate everything.  You will need:

  • An onion.
  • A couple cloves of garlic.
  • A can of chicken broth
  • Two cans or bottles of beer
  • A stick of butter
  • Some flour
  • A block of cheddar cheese (about six cups)
  • A cup or two of shredded Parmesean cheese.
  • Salt, black pepper, cayenne.

The food processor gets the onion and the garlic.  I usually toss in a few pieces of carrot at the end and let it get shredded a little before stopping the food processor.  Put this mix into a large pan, add one can of beer and the chicken broth, and simmer.  Spice with black pepper and cayenne and maybe a touch of mustard.  If I had Worcestershire sauce, I would add a spoonful now, but not too much seasoning yet.

Not my soup.

In another pan melt butter, add milk, and add a little flour.  You’re kind of making a roux.  Stir constantly until light brown and beginning to bubble.  Then take the roux off the heat or — use  a double-boiler (best option) —  and slowly add cheese, mixing constantly.  I like 1/4 Parmesean to 3/4 cheddar.

This is a good time to add more  milk to achieve the correct consistency.  You can also add more flour to thicken things if it seems like you need it.  But I prefer everything to be heavy on the liquid at this point.  You can always cook down for thickness.

Next combine the beer with the milk/cheese.  Put back on low heat and keep stirring.  You can add more beer at this point.  (I usually do.)  I always want a little extra liquid (i.e., beer) so it can simmer for a while.  You might add a little more cayenne and black pepper too.  Now is the right time to add a teaspoon of Tabasco.  This is what they call “season to taste.”

Variations I like:  Add corn, cauliflower, broccoli, or peas.  You might even open a can of chicken breast — you always wondered what that was good for, right? — and mix it in the soup.  Keep in mind, however, that you no longer have a true beer cheese soup.  You now have a chowder.

And if you want to take your soup with you in a thermos, keeping it simple is best and more traditional.  There is nothing better than a cup of beer cheese soup on a frozen lake, for example, especially if you have a flask of schnapps in your pocket.

For some reason popcorn has become the usual garnish for beer cheese soup, but I like croutons, toast, or saltines.

Final tip:  Eat beer cheese soup with a giant spoon…think Herman Munster, what would he use if he were eating soup.  For some unknown reason it tastes better that way, kind of like the way pizza tastes better when it is cut into squares.

Ok…time to grill my sandwich and enjoy the soup!  Then back to calling people like Erik Paulsen a knob.  (He is a knob…a dork…a numbers guy who can’t reason…and, not surprisingly, a Republican.)


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