Greetings beer lovers!
This month’s special brew is Summit’s Horizon Red Ale. The brewmasters at Summit Brewing call this beer “an inspired hybrid that blurs the boundaries between IPA and Amber styles. The exceptional blend of American hops (including the harder-to-find Horizon variety) gives it an intense pine, citrus and earthy character in the nose and on the tongue.” Read more about Summit Horizon Red Ale.
As I mentioned in the first blog post about my beer winnings, I am not a huge beer drinker normally, but if I do drink it, it’s gotta be something I can “chew” on if you know what I mean. I was excited to try this Red Ale, as I usually like Red beers and it definitely showed it’s character right away! However, I knew I would have my work cut out for me, because, as with the Summit Extra Pale Ale, there was a bitter note I would need to overcome when cooking with it. So, we talked and talked (the hubby & I) about the options we had. We talked about making a batter out of it, which we will still may do, but then I stumbled upon this recipe from Taste of Home for Swiss Beer Bread. Then the hubby said he could make Beer Cheese Soup. I know what you are thinking, but you said you wouldn’t go there? And you are right, I hadn’t planned on it, but I thought would be a perfect compliment to the bread! I usually try to stay away from bread (gluten) whenever possible but I am weak when it comes to freshly baked bread…..so, let’s get started!
This is what you’ll need to make the Swiss Beer Bread:
4 ounces Swiss cheese-grated
1/4 cup caramelized onions-finely chopped
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 bottle (12 ounces) Summit Horizon Red Ale
2 tablespoons butter, melted
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and pepper. Stir beer into dry ingredients just until moistened. Add the caramelized onions and almost all of the cheese, keeping a small handful aside to put on the top as soon as it came out of the oven. Transfer to a greased 8-in. x 4-in. loaf pan. Drizzle with the butter. Bake at 375° for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove from oven & sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack.
What I love about this bread, besides the fact it is delicious, is that you can add pretty much anything you want to it. You could swap out the Swiss cheese for Cheddar, you could add crumbled bacon to the batter, chives or other herbs. I slathered it with butter while still slightly warm, but it would be delicious with honey or even a fruit butter.
Now let’s talk about the soup……this took a bit more of our patience and perseverance, but the finished product is amazing!
Here is what you’ll need for the Beer Cheese Soup:
1/2 small sweet onion, finely diced
1 small carrot, finely diced
One 12oz. bottle of Horizon Red Ale
3 tablespoons of Worchestshire sauce
4 cups of milk (we used 2%)
1 cup of half & half
3 cups of chicken stock plus 2 tablespoons of chicken base
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
16 oz. of shredded cheddar cheese
4-6 thick-cut bacon, cooked & crumbled
olive oil at the ready and salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup of butter & 1/2 cup +/- of flour for roux*
Preheat your large stockpot or Dutch oven on the stove top. Once heated, add a good coating of olive oil and sweat the onions & carrots. Then add the Worchestshire and reduce the liquid until just about syrupy. Add your beer and continue to cook for a bit. Add your stock and once up to temp, add a tablespoon or two of your roux. Using a whisk at this point, you’ll want to slowly add the milk and then the cream. Tasting along the way and adjusting the flavors as you go. Continue to add the roux to thicken. Once you feel you are where you want to be flavor wise, add the cheese and continue to whisk until smooth. Turn off heat and ladle into soup bowls. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon and any other items you’d like to add! (you won’t ever see me putting popcorn on as a garnish….I have never understood that, but feel free to do it if you like it that way!)
One thing I need you to be sure to do, is to taste this as you go along. Recently, a question was posed to a group I belong to, the Minnesota Food Bloggers about what advice you’d give a novice cook or baker. My answer should have included-taste as you are cooking! It’s so important. You’ll want to keep the awesome beer flavor while toning down the bitter aspect of it. We got three meals out of this soup, (nice large bowls we ate with bread or a salad) meaning one batch will either feed 6-8 or split up like we did.
*To make the roux, melt butter in a small sauté pan. Slowly add the flour, using a whisk, cooking until the mixture has thickened and is caramel in color.
Enjoy & see you next month!!