Location, Location, Location!

Raw ingredients for the soup. In the case of the cheeses, raw milk cheeses to be exact...

At the same Chef's Night that yielded the previous two recipes posted below, my offering was this Cheddar/Ale soup made almost entirely from ingredients that are made within an hours drive from where we cooked. The focus of the evening was warming winter foods with an extra emphasis on locally made ingredients. We tend to look for local whenever possible to begin with, but this night the focus on Michigan bounty was even more intense than usual. There was a professional photographer and fellow food blogger/obsessive present, Joe Hakim of The Hungry Dudes, so we had to bring the A game and swing for the bleachers. I think we accomplished our goal. Links to the photo galleries and printed article spawned from this evenings culinary melee at the end. Recipe for Michigan Cheddar/Ale soup: Ingredients for 4 servings: 1/2 medium size yellow onion diced 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced 2 large jalapenos seeded and diced 1 Tablespoons fresh garlic, peeled and crushed 2 bottles Mad Hatter IPA (New Holland Brewing Company) 1 pint chicken stock 1 pint Guernsey Farms heavy whipping cream 1/2 pound bacon diced (home made by a friend of the Estate, so local as well) 1/2 pound Rosewood Products raw milk cheddar shredded 1/4 pound or 2 oz. Rosewood Products raw milk goat cheddar shredded 1/4 pound or 2 oz. Oliver Farms sharp cheddar curds 1/2 cup butter 1/2 cup flour 1 Tablespoon Chicken Soup base ("Better Than Bouillon" brand paste) Fresh ground black pepper to taste Zingermans pretzel bread made into croutons, or crushed pretzels Procedure:

Don't stop stirring! Burnt cheese does not taste good! Well... at least not in this case.

Mince the diced onion and peppers in a food processor until almost a paste. Brown the diced bacon in a pot over medium heat and add the minced veggies. Cook slowly for 25 minutes, or until most of the moisture is gone. At the same time melt the butter in a small pan and add the flour, cook for 15-20 minutes on low heat, stirring continuously, and refrigerate. Turn the heat on the soup pot up to high and add the garlic. Stir continuously until the garlic smell is very strong, 30 seconds or so. Add 1.5 bottles of Mad Hatter, and boil until only 1/3 of the volume is left. Add the chicken stock and cream and bring back to a simmer. Once back to a simmer add the cheeses and stir constantly until dissolved over medium heat. Or add bit by bit until it's all been incorporated, but the central theme here is do NOT stop stirring until all the cheese is melted! If you stop stirring during this part of the process, the cheese will just sink to the bottom and burn. Once dissolved, and back to a simmer, add the last half bottle of Mad Hatter and the chilled butter and flour mixture a little at a time until the soup is thickened to your liking. Stir in the chicken soup base a little at a time, tasting between each addition to make sure you don't over salt, and add as much fresh ground black pepper as you wish to your own tastes. Taste for seasoning, and bowl, using the pretzel croutons for garnish and a few turns on the pepper mill for added contrast and aroma.

Warming, cheesy, peppery, pretzelly goodness! Perfect for a midwest winter night!

I tried to go as simply as possible with this recipe, as there was a chance it would be published in a local magazine, so I wanted it to be accessible to the home cook. It's come to my attention that I'm not always very good at that though. I guess 20 years cooking professionally has somewhat disconnected me from what the term “home cook” implies. That aside, this recipe is very adaptable, you can substitute any local or even non-local variant of any ingredient included and still have one hell of a soup at the end of it.   Live well, and eat better!   -Jack Gallery from Joe Hakim of The Hungry Dudes blog Rogue Estate Facebook Gallery Real Detroit Weekly's article on the meal in question

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