This rich and silky soup highlights the sharp flavor of a nicely veined blue cheese. It starts with a velouté made with roux and chicken stock, a foundational technique useful for many classic sauces. Here we add beer and cheese to the velouté to make a surprisingly satisfying and silky soup for an early fall evening.
¼ cup butter
8 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 cups flavorful chicken stock, heated
1 bottle Hefeweizen-style unfiltered wheat beer
6 ounces Maytag blue cheese, crumbled and divided
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 sprigs watercress, to garnish
[Chef’s Note: Hefeweizen is a German style wheat ale. Made with the addition of weizen yeasts, the beer is unfiltered and has a great deal of character. Wheat beers are usually very malty in taste, with fruity notes. Any beer can be used, but as with cooking with wine, it’s best to use a quality beer which you would enjoy drinking on its own.]
Fine mesh sieve
Melt the butter in saucepan over low heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the roux turns golden.
[Chef’s Note: Equal parts flour and fat, cooked together, are called a roux, which is a classic preparation used to thicken soups, stews, and other dishes. Depending upon how long you cook the roux, it will have different levels of thickening power; the longer you cook it, the less thickening power it has, but the more caramelized flavor it will bring to the finished dish. In this case, we want a blond roux.]
Add the heated chicken stock to the roux slowly, in stages, being sure to return the roux to a smooth paste or slurry after each addition. When all the chicken stock has been incorporated, return the pan to medium heat and cook until the stock has thickened into a velouté. Reduce by half, until about the consistency of heavy cream.
[Chef’s Note: Meaning “velvety” in French, a velouté is one of the grand sauces, elaborated with white stocks (chicken, veal, or seafood) and roux, and the base of many soups and finished sauces.]
If there are any lumps, strain the velouté through a fine sieve into a soup pot over medium heat. Add the beer and stir to incorporate, bringing to a low simmer. Add 4 ounces of the blue cheese and stir until the cheese has fully melted and incorporated into the soup. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
Pour into individual bowls, crumble the remaining blue cheese in the center of each bowl and garnish with a sprig of watercress. Serve immediately.
You may garnish with crumbled crispy bacon instead of the watercress for an even more robust flavor.
The basic recipe can also be adapted using any creamy, flavorful cheese. A nicely ripened brie would make for a lovely soup, or a combination of Parmigiano Reggiano and white cheddar.
You may also replace the beer with a dry white wine, or make the soup chunky with the addition of diced carrots, celery and mushrooms, adding them just before the cheese and simmering until the vegetables are al dente.
Recipe by Mark Tafoya
Photo by Peggy Bull