Monday, October 22, 2012

ale, cheddar, and cauliflower soup.

I am a soup girl.  I thankfully date a guy who loves soup (with maybe not quite as much gusto as me but he still loves it).  Most guys don’t really understand soup as a meal.  I am constantly questioned at work as to how I can eat soup for lunch and not be hungry an hour later but I find soup to be comforting and filling and the perfect meal in the cooler months, especially when served a chunk of crusty fresh baked bread.  I have spent an inordinate amount of time searching for a soup recipe that feels and tastes manly.  The kind of dish you can serve to a guy on a Sunday evening during football season and have him not look at you as if you have three heads (because soup is not chili and everyone knows chili is more well received the soup any day).  I have finally found a soup that feels substantial and that seems appropriate for football season and got the boy’s seal of approval (!).  It contains beer and cheese (which we know all boys love) but it also contains a decent amount of cauliflower which keeps it firmly in the healthy category (or so I like to tell myself).  The little bit of Dijon mustard in this soup completely transforms and elevates the flavor of the whole dish.  I recommend serving this with a crusty rye bread or if you want something more I imagine a grilled cheese and sliced apple sandwich on rye would be perfect. 

Ale, Cheddar, and Cauliflower Soup
Recipe adapted from Mark Bittman

When making this the first time I almost forgot the Dijon mustard which would have been a tragedy.  I can’t even begin to tell you how much it transforms the dish.   So don’t forget the Dijon

4 ounces bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 medium celery rib, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Salt and black pepper
1 small to medium cauliflower, cored and chopped
2 12-ounce bottles in the Belgian dark-abbey-ale style
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Chopped chives for garnish

Place a large pot on the burner and turn it to medium-high heat.  Add the bacon and when it begins to brown and render its fat (about 5 minutes) remove it from the pot and set aside. Add in the onion, carrots, and celery, garlic, and some salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. 

Add the cauliflower, beer, stock, bay leaf, and cayenne.  Bring to a boil, then adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles steadily; cover and cook until the cauliflower is very tender, 10 to 15 minutes.  Remove and discard the bay leaf.  Stir in the mustard and puree the soup with an immersion blender or in a Cusinart (or you can semi puree it by using a potato-masher). 

Toss together the cheddar and cornstarch.  Add the cheese mixture to the soup a handful at a time, stirring all the while, until it’s well incorporated and the soup is smooth.  Serve hot garnished with the chives and bacon.  

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