Wisconsin Beer Cheese-Cheddar Soup with Pretzels
by Denise of Wasabi Prime
With autumn comes the change of leaves, a chill in the air, and the rowdy roar of football fans. I was talking with my mother, who regularly hosts football gatherings, and I asked her what she serves. It’s hard to come up with something new and it’s inevitably the same combination of savory snacks, a pot of stew or soup, and the beverage of choice: beer. People stick to their favorites for game-day foods, so how about combining all the best-loved foods into something new? Football fans, meet the new MVP: a creamy cheese and beer soup, topped with salty pretzels!
It’s a little like a fondue you eat with a spoon, but not nearly as rich. A bottle of light ale or lager is the perfect amount of bitterness and crispness to cut through the two types of Wisconsin Cheddar used in this soup.
A younger Cheddar, still creamy in texture and having a mild sweetness, mixed with an aged Cheddar like a two year-old premium white Cheddar, give this soup a more pronounced sharpness and complex flavor.
Wisconsin Cheddar is one of the more familiar and popular types of cheese available, and it’s probably one whose complexity people don’t fully appreciate.
This soup puts Cheddar’s flavor in the spotlight. Typically savory and nutty, Cheddar has a creamy texture in younger varieties, and becomes more sharp and crumbly as it ages.
The aged Cheddar is the secret ingredient in this soup, adding notes of savory bitterness to balance the range of flavors.
The soup’s creaminess is helped along by a sweet potato, cut into cubes and sautéed with a chopped onion – these both provide sweetness, and the starch of the potato helps thicken the soup. An immersion blender or standing blender is a must for this soup, as it helps emulsify the melted cheese with the stock, along with breaking down the cooked potatoes and onions to a velvety consistency.
There’s no need to add cream or milk to the soup, as the use of two different Cheddars gives the soup plenty of richness, as well as a distinctive flavor.
The finishing touch of crushed pretzels is a creative take on the typical saltines or oyster crackers, and it makes watching the big game a little more interesting.
Wisconsin Beer-Cheddar Soup with Pretzels
By Denise of Wasabi Prime
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups sweet potato, cubed (about 1 small sweet potato)
1 cup diced onions
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1, 12-oz bottle of lager or pale ale, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups shredded Wisconsin Aged Cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded Wisconsin Medium Cheddar cheese
1 quart water or chicken stock
Salt to taste (may not need it, as cheese has salt)
For garnish: crushed pretzels
Special tools: immersion or standing blender to finish soup
Place a soup pot on the stove and heat to medium. Add the butter and melt before adding the sweet potatoes and onion. Let the potatoes and onion cook until lightly browned and the potatoes are fork-tender. Add the garlic, thyme, and pepper.
Take the room-temperature beer and pour small increments to deglaze the pan and slowly integrate the liquid so the foam doesn’t boil over.
Once the beer is added to the potato, onions, and garlic mixture, turn the heat up to medium-high, until the mixture starts to lightly boil. Start to add in handfuls of the shredded cheese and mix constantly.
Add in the water or chicken stock in small amounts to keep the soup’s consistency loose as you stir to help melt the cheese. Check for flavor, adding salt if desired.
When the cheese is mostly melted, turn the heat to low. Use an immersion blender or carefully ladle the soup into a blender to liquefy all the parts of the soup until it’s smooth and creamy. Keep the soup on the stove on low heat to keep warm.
To serve, ladle into a bowl and add a sprinkle of crushed pretzels as a garnish.