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LJWorld.com weblogs The Flying Fork

Cheesy ale soup, with apologies to The Free State Brewing Company

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Rain! In July! Oh, blessed drops from the sky, I'm not even mad that I'd planned to eat leftovers and lie by the pool all evening. I promise.

If it wants to rain at the end of July, I'm happy. Maybe not if it's my outdoor wedding day, but I'm pretty much OK with rain in July under any other possible circumstance.

To celebrate the rain on Monday, we decided to make cheddar ale soup. My friend Kiley said it today after work: "I love this rain. It makes me want soup. Cheddar ale soup, to be exact."
Uh, OK. I can do that. Well, I can sort of do that. Do I have artisanal alma cheddar lying around? No. Do I have all of the exact ingredients to the auspicious soup that Free State Brewing Company has forever sold in massive quantities and that is in, a word, perfection? Not really.

So, as I am wont to do, I bastardized the heck out of that recipe. Can I call this Free State's Cheddar Ale Soup? Not on your life. Not even close.

Can I say that it was tasty and worked in a pinch? Absolutely! And it came together in about 13 minutes, was warm and filling on a wet and cool summer night. We have to take advantage of these moments when we can eat outside of the season, right? When it feels good to eat soup that isn't gazpacho in the summer? Yes, we do. So what if I didn't have aged cheddar on hand or any red or green peppers growing in my (non-existent) garden in the backyard? We will make this work! And make it work, we did.

Feel free to mess with this recipe. It is not the sacred cow of the Free State's menu. I am totally comfortable with you doing a "I have some of this, I think I'll throw it in" version.

For my soup, I happened to have some pepper jack, cheddar and roasted garlic goat cheese on hand. Into the pot they went. What?

Kiley and Megan's Cheesy Ale "Whatever" Soup
1/4 cup onion, diced
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup roasted red pepper, diced
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup ale
4 oz cream cheese
4 oz goat cheese
3 cups half and half
4 oz pepper jack, shredded
4 oz cheddar, shredded
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt (but don't do this until the very end, and only if you need it)

Start by melting the butter in a stock pot and adding in the onions. Once they begin to get translucent, add in the red pepper and stir until the onions are done. Then add the flour and stir for a three or four minutes over medium heat.

Next, add the beer, slowly and whisking constantly. Once everything is nicely combined and not lumpy, add the cream cheese and goat cheese and stir well over medium heat until it's well-combined.

Now you are ready for the half and half (or milk, or cream, or some combination thereof — whatever you have on hand will do). Add it slowly and whisk regularly for about eight minutes. Don't get this too hot or it will scorch, but you do want it hot enough to thicken.

Once you have a nice, steamy milk base, add your cheese and spices. Whisk it all together until the cheese is melted. Here is where I used my immersion blender. It's perfect for soup. If you don't have one, you can use a traditional blender, or if you have neither of those, just be sure to dice everything into tiny pieces. Then taste and add salt as needed.

Stir and thicken, serve with a nice piece of crusty bread and a good movie.

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