So it’s looking like we skipped over spring entirely (well, temperature-wise…the whole horrendous-allergy aspect of spring is in full swing) and jumped right to my favorite time of the year … summer! Yesterday it reached about 90 degrees in my neck of the woods, and, as usual, I did seasonally inappropriate things.
First, let’s talk about what I did right.
Listened to some surfy-sounding O.A.R.!
Drank some seasonably-appropriate beverages!
Wore flip flops!
…and that’s about it. Because despite the temperature in my apartment lingering around 88 degrees (because I’m not ready to start sobbing/become catatonic over my electric bill just yet), I made a very late fall/winter appropriate dinner last night: beer & cheese soup, and roasted vegetables.
I know. I willingly turned my oven to 375F. For an hour. And ate some hefty, hearty soup. But hear me out! I had good reasons for doing both of these things
First off, for Memorial Day, Colin and I had an impromptu barbecue. Seriously impromptu. Like, went out and bought a grill around 4:30 p.m. that day because we wanted grilled meat, dagnabit. We also bought entirely too much food, and even though the four other people we fed in addition to ourselves put a good dent in our supplies, we still had a ton of stuff left over. The meat was no problem; we could just freeze that. The veggies, however… we needed to do something about those. Especially before going away for what’s sure to be a crazy-fun family reunion this weekend. (No, no sarcasm. Colin’s family is truly awesome, and thus their annual reunions are always a good time.)
I know what you’re thinking: Jeez, Lauren, why didn’t you just throw them on that grill you impulse-bought three days ago? And you’re right; I could have. But Colin had just finished washing, disassembling and storing it. I feel like taking it and dirtying it all up again probably would have been kind of trollish.
And as for the soup… well, Colin had a tooth yanked out of his head on Tuesday (fun!), so soft foods have been on the agenda all week. And I’ve been dying to make beer and cheddar soup for years, ever since randomly receiving a “Cooking with Beer” cookbook from a friend in college. So since I knew I had a surplus of beer (again, thanks, MDW), and a considerable amount of cheese (because I always have a considerable amount of cheese on hand), I decided to try my hand at this recipe from Food and Wine.
So you see, I’m not a masochist, or insane (though after my cooking stint in our sweltering kitchen, and sitting in our sweltering living room watching season four of Arrested Development for about an hour, I definitely started to feel loopy). I had perfectly good reasons to make these totally unseasonable dishes. Though I won’t blame you if you don’t make either of these tonight/this weekend (highs in the 90s today and tomorrow!), I will hold it against you if you don’t bookmark these and make them once football and sweater season is upon us again/if you’re living in a temperate zone in the southern hemisphere and need some good chilly-weather recipes. The vegetables are simple enough (veggies + balsamic vinegar + olive oil + s&p, duh), and the soup… seriously, the only thing I would recommend doing differently is making sure you have a big, hot pretzel/pretzel bun to dunk in your bowl. I’m still a little sad I didn’t have any on hand.
As you can see, I tweaked Erdeljac’s recipe slightly, just based on what I had on hand, but I’m sure it’s incredible his way, too. I thought the pepperjack cheese added a nice bit of heat to the dish (although using a whole jalapeño, as he did, would also probably do the trick).Also, since he used smoked cheese, and I didn’t have any in my fridge, I used a bit of smoked paprika to get a little bit of that smoky flavor.
Beer and cheddar soup (Adapted slightly from Food & Wine)
4 slices bacon
1 tsp diced jalapeño
4 mince garlic cloves
3/4 c diced onion
1 tsp fresh thyme
12 oz lager/pilsner (I used some good old ‘merican Budweiser)
2 cups chicken broth
4 tbsp butter
1/4 cup flour
1 cup half-and-half
3 cups shredded cheese (I used a combination of sharp yellow cheddar, white cheddar and pepperjack – I’d say about 2 parts cheddar to 1 part jack)
Dash smoked paprika
salt and pepper, to taste (I didn’t need any, but I also used salted butter. If you’re using unsalted butter, you might think it needs a bit of salt)
Cook the bacon over moderate heat in a large pan until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crisp. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels, leaving the rendered fat in the pan. Add your onion, jalapeño, garlic and thyme to the pan and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened. Add half of the beer and cook until reduced by half. Add your chicken broth and bring to a simmer.
In a smaller saucepan, melt your butter. Add the flour and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Whisk this roux into the soup until incorporated and bring to a simmer. Cook until thickened.
Add the half-and-half, cheeses and the remaining beer and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and creamy. Crumble and stir in the bacon and season with smoked paprika, salt and pepper. If your soup is too thick, add a little more broth. Serve with a big honkin’ soft pretzel. Please. Do this for me.
As for the vegetables, they’re pretty idiot-proof. I literally just tossed some grape tomatoes, portabello mushrooms, green peppers and asparagus with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper, threw them in a baking dish, and let them roast for about 45 minutes at 375. I took them out once to toss them and make sure they were cooking evenly. I also sprinkled a little bit of grated parmesan on top. Now, I know what you’re thinking: Lauren, you’re literally eating cheese soup for dinner. Do you really need to put cheese on your vegetables?
These veggies could easily be skewered and grilled (probably the more sensible decision, given it’s June), but roasting these on a chilly, wet evening would probably be wonderful.