This is one of the first soups I make when the temperatures begin to dip. The taste is perfect after a long walk in the woods with the dogs or a chilly morning on the soccer fields. It is warm, creamy, and cheesy without being too heavy.
A mixture of onions, carrot and celery (the French Holy Trinity) make up the bulk of the mirepoix, but I like to add a little garlic as well. This recipe is thickened with flour and stock, giving it a clear flavor edge over the canned, condensed varieties. Chicken stock is used for the body, but vegetable stock can be used for a vegetarian version. It is all pureed until smooth and creamy. *(Bonus for those of you who have picky vegetable eaters---they will never know what's in it other than cheese.)* I like to use half-and-half instead of cream for calorie and texture concerns. I use a quality aged white cheddar (the yellow color comes form the pureed carrots). Remember that this is cheese soup, so use the good stuff and grate it yourself. Serve it with with a handful of croutons and cayenne pepper for a kick.
Cheddar Cheese Soup
makes about 6 cups
6 Tablespoons (3-ounces) unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 medium stalks celery, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock, plus more if needed to thin
1 cup half-and-half
8 ounces aged white Cheddar cheese, grated
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cayenne Pepper to taste
Croutons for garnish
In a large stock pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and carrots and cook until tender, but not browned, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, another 1-2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetable mixture and cook, stirring for 3-4 minutes more. Slowly whisk in the chicken stock. Whisking constantly, bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 45 minutes. Remove from the heat. Using a hand held immersion blender or an upright blender (being careful pureeing the hot mixture) puree until smooth.
Return the pot to a low heat and add the half-and-half, cheese, and mustard. (Do not let the mixture come to a boil.) Stir until the cheese is completely melted. Season with the Worcestershire, salt, and freshly ground black pepper to taste. If you prefer a thinner soup, thin with additional chicken stock if needed. Serve with cayenne pepper and croutons for garnish. Enjoy!
Source: Adapted from The Joy of Cooking, 1997