Soup and hot sandwiches are a great family meal on a cold winter day. Together they are warm, filling, and can easily be made ahead. It is also a great meal that allows you to use some of the leftovers you have in your fridge. When I plan and shop for my family's meals, I try to consider larger ticket items that I can get multiple dinners out of. I also try to consider the "shelf life" of the items I currently have on hand and try to plan meals that will be able to utilize those items. Soups are ideal for this. They are so versatile, you can put almost anything in them and they can be served as a side or a main dish.
I am partial to cream soups. Cream soups are hearty, filling, and comforting. The key to a making a good cream soup is to start out with a basic roux. Roux is equal parts fat to flour that creates a the thickening base for your soup. It is important to whisk the four and fat until it is smooth to help eliminate lumps (this is true for any creamy sauce or gravy). The other important factor in creating a successful roux is to cook the fat/flour mixture for a few minutes to cook out the flour taste. When your roux is just slightly off white, it is ready for the liquid.
When I made this Beer Cheese Soup, I had some ham leftover from the quarter ham I had cooked on Christmas day. The weather is now cold, I felt a nice thick cheesy soup with hot ham sandwiches on pretzel rolls would be perfect. Cheese, ham, and pretzels all love playing together, so I knew the flavors would be delicious, especially since I love dunking sandwiches in my soup and all of these flavors would be a party on my taste buds. Additionally, this entire meal is easy to make ahead and would be perfect on one of those nights I work late. Sometimes my job finds me working late and I don't get home until 8:00 or 9:00 at night. Meals that can be on the table in half an hour are ideal. The soup can be made a couple of days ahead and heated up when ready to eat. The ham has already been cooked, so all I have to do is throw a few slices on a sheet pan and toss it in the oven at 350 degrees for 10 - 50 minutes, just long enough to get it hot. The soup can either be put in a crock pot on low for a few hours or on the stove top on medium low for about 20 minutes or until hot and steamy, but not boiling (you should NEVER boil a cream soup or sauce).
Beer Cheese Soup
- 2 T Butter
- 1 T Frantoio Valtenesi Garlic Infused Olive Oil
- 3 T All Purpose Flour
- 1 c Chicken or Vegetable Stock
- 1 c Beer (I like an IPA because I like the bold flavor, but you can use any kind - however stay away from flavored beers unless they have a savory component).
- 1 Single Serve Container of Plain Greek Yogurt
- 1/2 c Heavy Cream
- 2 c Shredded Cheddar Cheese (I use an extra sharp cheddar because it is so strong and I love that boldness, but you can use a mild cheddar if that is more to your liking).
- 1 T Garlic Infused Bsphere Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 t Sea Salt
- 1 t Cracked Black Pepper
- 1 t Garlic Powder
- 1 t Onion Powder
- 1/2 t Dried Dill Weed
- 1/4 t Paprika (hot or sweet - whichever you prefer)
- 1/2 t Ground Turmeric
- 1 Green Onion (sliced into small pieces)
- 1/2 c Chopped Ham Pieces (small bite-size bits) (optional)
- Melt butter in bottom of a heavy bottom pan (I love my dutch oven for making soups) over a medium low heat.
- Stir in the Frantoio Valtenesi Garlic Infused Olive Oil.
- Add the flour, whisking between each Tablespoon.
- Cook flour, constantly whisking for 2 - 3 minutes.
- Combine beer, stock, and the Garlic infused Bsphere balsamic vinegar together. Slowly pour into the roux, a quarter at a time (about 1/2 cup), whisking constantly (this will help ensure there are no lumps). Pour a quarter of the liquid in, whisk and let the sauce thicken between each round. (You can add more or less liquid depending on how thick you like your soup).
- Turn heat up to medium, cover, and let simmer for 5 minutes. Whisking slowly every couple of minutes to keep the soup smooth and from burning on the bottom of the pan.
- Reduce heat back to simmer or medium low and whisk in the Greek yogurt.
- Whisk in salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, dill weed, turmeric, and paprika.
- Slowly stir in shredded cheese about a half cup at a time.
- Add ham if desired. Cover and let simmer until all of the cheese is melted. About 10 - 15 minutes. Stirring every few minutes or so to keep the soup from separating or burning on the bottom of the pan.
- Reduce heat to low. Stir in heavy cream. Cover and let simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Turn off heat and stir.
- Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed, then top with sliced green onions.
- Serve or store in airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
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