January 02, 2009

A Lot of Words, Followed by a Good Recipe

I made, and ate, soup for dinner tonight.

That doesn't sound like much of a statement unless you know me pretty well. I believe a member of my family called it a miracle.

Among the plethora of things to eat that I do not like, soup is the one that people seem to feel is the oddest. I know that soup is like the ultimate comfort food for most people, it simply isn't for me. (For me, that would be mashed potatoes.)

It's not accurate to say that I don't like soup, period. I just don't like most broth-based soups, which is what the vast majority of soups I encounter tend to be. One exception to this is miso soup, which I do like on occasion. I love cream-based soups (like chowder or bisque) when they're good, but they can be so heavy and often poorly made in restaurants; making them at home can take a lot of time and effort that I'm usually not willing to give. Fruit and cold soups are good, but rare.

But today I was making a concerted effort to get through some email that had accumulated in my inbox, hitting the items that I skip over when I don't have time to indulge in the goodies they hold. One of them is the Food & Wine missives our local paper, the Mercury News, sends out each week. Generally, if the subject doesn't absolutely grab me, I end up glossing over it and eventually deleting it, unread.

This week's had an intriguing title, "Going for the goat." I figured it would be about goat cheese, but the lead article was actually about goat meat, which I have had only once (in Portugal) and did enjoy. Apparently it's getting a bit more popular. And no, the recipe I'm going to share does not have goat in it. Goat soup would be a broth soup, now, wouldn't it?

The recipe that finally got my attention was called simply Cheddar-Ale Soup. Normally, that wouldn't make me very excited, except maybe for the ale part. But last year I tried and loved an amazing soup at a fantastic little gem of a restaurant in Mariposa, CA, called Savoury's (if you ever go to Yosemite, you owe it to yourself to stop there for a meal - you won't regret it). I think the soup was called something like Wisconsin Tavern Cheese Soup and it was just out of this world. I looked everywhere for that recipe in the weeks that followed, to no avail. This recipe very closely approximates it and is so incredibly easy to make! Plus, it's from a book that's called Comfort Foods Made Healthy, so it's got that going for it.

Some notes on my experience making it: 1. The recipe makes a lot of soup, so I halved the recipe, and drank the other half of the bottle of beer (Sam Adams Irish Red, if you're wondering). 2. The store didn't have any of the pre-cooked diced potatoes, so I just diced some red potatoes and cooked them a little longer. I didn't peel the potatoes first because I figured I'd keep in the vitamins and such in there, but I do recommend peeling them. Once you mash the potatoes, the skins end up floating around in kind of an odd way. It didn't detract from the taste, but I think it would look better without them. 3. Because I can't eat red peppers, I finely diced one Roma tomato and used that as the garnish on top. 4. If you're a black pepper fan, you might want to put some on before you dive in. I can't stand the stuff, but the abovementioned family member said it made it even better.

I hope if you try it, you'll come back and let me know what you think. I know I'll be making this again, which will maybe save me from being the weird one in the winter.