I'm no saint, that's for sure ... so when I tell you that I have been making soup for some church neighbors as my Lenten offering, please know that SB and I have also profited from this small show of largesse. We have soup and bread for supper - the same soup that I pack up and deliver to my friends. Okay? That said, it IS very satisfying to have a huge pot of good soup on the stove and to know that you have made plenty to share.
This week's soup is a rich creamy cheese soup that begins with a mirepoix ... Audra, over at Inspired Nutmeg will be happy to know that she taught me a sweet cooking term last week. Look, Audra! I even got a great picture of my warm mirepoix!
While the vegetables cooked to a tender crisp glistening heap of vitamins and minerals, I added warm chicken broth to them, lowered the heat to a simmer and let them bubble happily . I turned my attention to making a huge roux that would thicken the creamy soup base. Cooking the roux until the flour and butter foamed into a white froth made for an ultra smooth soup - something about glutens and cooking the flour enough to eliminate the 'graininess' within the sauce. Whatever, it worked. I know this isn't the most attractive photo, but it shows you that white foaminess that comes to a perfect roux.
The other deal with this soup is to have the milk and cream waiting in the wings so that when the roux is perfect, you can slowly add the milk and stir like mad to achieve the ultimate smooth sauce. I changed over to a whisk at this point and it worked beautifully. Once it begins to thicken up, I added the cream and downed the heat dramatically so that the sauce would NOT boil. If it boils, the cream curdles - blecchh. As I stirred, I added the seasonings and cheese in small cubes and stirred to melt them. I used Velveeta cheese this time, but the Fontina and Cheddar combination makes a tremendous soup too! So, just below a simmer and stirring until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Cover it, turn off the heat and go back to the vegetables. I increased the heat abit to get the broth really hot and then added it and the vegetables to the cheese soup base a ladleful at a time, stirring really well to blend the two liquids. When all the vegetables and stock were incorporated, I covered the soup back up and kept it off the heat while I made the croutons.
Simple, simple, simple croutons entail a non stick pan, a bit of olive oil and butter, and some spices (I used just a sprinkle of onion salt and dried basil), cubes of good firm bread, and a cookie sheet for crisping them up. I just melted the butter until it was foamy, sprinkled the herbs, tossed and toasted the pumpernickel cubes, then popped them on a cookie sheet and into a hot (400 degrees F) oven for about 5 or 10 minutes.
SB and I had this soup with a sandwich made with pumpernickel, grilled portabellos and onions, salad greens, melted cheese, and a just a bit of blue cheese dressing. A cold Bass ale/glass of white wine topped it off ... yum, perfect Meatless Monday supper! And soup leftover to share!