For The Packers: Mac-‘N-Beer-Cheese Soup

beer cheese soup with macaroniI’m not actually much of a sports fan.  Oh sure, I watch football every Sunday, but only because Jeff does.  And I have a Patriots sweatshirt, but Jeff bought it for me and I wear it because it’s warm.  Even so, I love football.  Not for the game itself, but for the food. I’m realizing just now that I’m devoting more energy to this year’s Super Bowl menu that I did to Thanksgiving and Christmas combined.  That should probably tell you something about my palate. 

I’d been thinking for months about what I’d cook if the Patriots made it to the Super Bowl.  White clam pizza, baked beans, Parker House rolls, Boston Cream Pie…  but now none of those dishes seem quite right.  However, beer cheese soup, complete with elbow noodles and a generous sprinkle of scallions, is just the thing.  I love Wisconsin Beer Cheese Soup, and I love macaroni and cheese, why not combine the two? 

Hearty and rich, this soup feeds a crowd, and will keep well in a crock pot on a buffet table. It’s creamy and cheesy but the hoppy beer cuts through the richness, as does the hint of spice from the jalapeno.  There’s plenty of flavor from the Worcestershire sauce and mustard, but I’m a mustard addict so next time I might add an extra teaspoon of it. And if you like more spice, you could certainly add more jalapeno. Be sure to use a beer you like to drink, because the flavor really comes through. I went for an IPA we happened to have in the fridge, and it was lovely.

And for you Steelers fans, not to worry, I’m working on a Pittsburgh-inspired recipe too!

beer cheese soup

Mac-‘N-Beer-Cheese Soup

Serves 6

1/2 lb elbow macaroni

4 tablespoons butter

1 small onion, diced

1 medium carrot, peeled and diced

3 loves garlic, diced

1 small jalapeno, seeded and diced

1 teaspoon dry mustard powder

4 tablespoons flour

11/2 cups vegetable broth

1 (12 ounce) bottle beer

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 chopped scallions, for garnish

Cook the macaroni in boiling salted water until al dente.  Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the butter in a dutch oven.  Saute the onion 1 minute.  Add the carrot, garlic and jalapeno and saute over medium-low heat until the vegetables are slightly brown and very soft. Stir in the mustard powder. Add the flour and stir well, cooking for 1 minute.  Slowly wisk in half of the broth to form a smooth paste.  In a slow stream, wisk in the remaining broth and the beer.  Once well incorporated, add in the cheese and stir continuously until melted.  Add the milk and Worcestershire sauce and then stir in the macaroni.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve topped with a sprinkle of chopped scallions.

Published in: on January 30, 2011 at 8:13 pm  Comments (22)  
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A Taste of Summer: My Mom’s Littleneck Clams

beer-steamed clams

Summer foods make me feel like a kid.  Corn on the cob, grilled lobster, ice cream sandwiches, and of course my mom’s awesome beer-steamed littleneck clams.  Clams might not be typical kid food, but in our house they were.  When we were young, we would crowd around the patio table, dripping in our swimsuits, poking each other with our forks, fighting to get to the big bowl of clams and the little cups of butter. 

littleneck clamsActually, that’s pretty much still what we do.  A little less elbowing, but the scene is the same.  The steaming bowl of clams is fragrant enough to draw a crowd to the table.  But over the years I’ve gotten sneaky, and by offering to ‘help’ I invariably get to steal a sweet little clam directly from the pot.  Shhh…. don’t tell.

Mom always serves the littlenecks with plenty of butter for dipping, as well as a bowl of the cooking broth for anyone who prefers to swish their clams in the fragrant liquid.  And a big loaf of warm crusty bread is a must, because there is nothing better than a hunk of bread dipped in the broth.

quahogs steamed in beerWhen choosing clams, smaller is generally better.  Most fish markets will label smaller hard-shelled clams as littlenecks, but don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t see them. Hard-shelled littleneck clams are tender and sweet, however, the larger clams tend to be a bit tough.  Hard-shelled clams, also called quahogs, are abundant along the shore here in New England, but that doesn’t mean they are cheap (unless you head out clamming for yourself, of course).  The good news is that they are rich and just a few clams per person is plenty for an appetizer.  Especially when followed by grilled swordfish and caprese salad and strawberry shortcake (yeah, my parents rock).

picnic RI clams 

Mom’s Little Neck Clams

Serves 4 as an appetizer

1/2 cup roughly chopped onion

3 stalks celery, cut in 1 inch pieces

2 teaspoons butter

12 ounces lager

1 bay leaf

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

2 pounds little neck clams, rinsed

1/2 cup melted butter, for serving

1 loaf crusty bread, for serving

In a large, deep saucepan, saute the onion and celery in butter over medium-low heat until soft, about 15 minutes.  Add the beer, bay leaf, thyme, and peppercorns and bring to a simmer.  Add the clams, cover, and cook just until the clams open, about 8 minutes.  Discard any unopened clams. Spoon the clams into a large bowl.  Fill small bowls with remaining beer broth and melted butter.  Serve clams with broth and butter for dipping, and with bread for sopping up the juices. 

littleneck clam shells

Published in: on June 20, 2010 at 6:55 pm  Comments (40)  
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