|The New Butter Soup: English Cheddar Chowder|
|December 11, 2011|
Yesterday, an inability to stay warm throughout the day led me straight into the steamy arms of an old favorite culinary school recipe: English Cheddar Chowder.
Note: For my friend Shauna, who is dealing with not an insignifcant amount of pain and numbness following oral surgery, I'd also suggest adding cooked lentils or even brown rice to provide a varied, but still soft, texture. Get well soon.
English Cheddar Chowder
2 cups salted water
1/2 cup carrots, brunoise diced
1/2 cup celery, brunoise diced
1/2 cup scallions, finely chopped
1/2 cup butter
1 medium onion, brunoise diced
1 cup flour
4 cups milk, scalded
4 cups chicken stock
1 lb. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 tsp. mustard powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Cayenne to taste
1. In a saucepan, bring 2 cups salted water to a boil. Add the carrots, celery, and scallions and simmer the vegetables for 5 minutes. Reserve the vegetables and liquid.
2. In a large soup pot, heat butter and sauté onion until wilted. Blend in flour and slowly add milk and chicken stock, whisking mixture constantly. Continue cooking the mixture, whisking constantly until well blended and smooth.
3. When mixture comes to a boil, add the cheese, vegetables and liquid, mustard, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Continue cooking the soup until the cheese is melted and the soup is well blended.
4. Adjust seasonings, according to personal taste.
Copyright (c) Roberta Dowling, Cambridge School of Culinary Arts.
As I dropped in soft handfuls of grated Cabot's Clothbound Cheddar and swirled them until they ebbed into the hot milk and stock, it occurred to me that this was my new Butter Soup.
Back when I was a kid, I decided that when I grew up and could eat whatever I pleased, I would make Butter Soup. It would combine the two things I loved most in the world -- butter and scallions -- and, even better, it would be a soup that remained untouched by the nasty cooked vegetables that mucked up every other soup I encountered as a picky eater. The way I envisioned it, my Butter Soup would be so pure and clean, it would radiate with an almost Tuscan-like simplicity.
My recipe for butter soup was this: melt enough butter to fill a large saucepan and sprinkle in minced scallions for flavor and color. (Funny -- even then scallions seemed to be my secret ingredient as they are now.) It all sounded fairly promising until the night I took advantage of my parents' absence to do some small-scale recipe testing. I figured my mom would be be less likely to miss a swiped half stick of butter than she would several pounds. And, given that Mom bought only a pound of butter at a time, to save up the required amount would have necessitated protracted butter hoarding in my Corey Haim and Alexander Winter-papered closet. I shudder to think how that would have ended.
In the end, Butter Soup was a huge disappointment. I mean, I'm sure my arteries thank me for not developing a taste for it, but it was just not what I expected. The soup's consistency was so viscous that spoonfuls clung to my throat on each swallow. I also found that while I happily downed lakes of melted butter when cradled in artichoke leaves at dinner, I really didn't enjoy eating (okay, drinking) even larger quantities of butter in a bowl of Butter Soup. It was a dairy-based illustration of too much of a good thing.
Happily, CSCA's English Cheddar Chowder does not fit that description, and it manages to fill the comfort-craving hole my Butter Soup failure left. When I first made this soup nine years ago, I liked it so much I didn't even mind the cooked vegetables mucking it up. Today, I actually enjoy the added color, texture, and flavor brought by the carrots and celery (remember: I always loved scallions), and on a day you can't keep the chill off your skin, this soup warms more than your cockles.