Smoky-Spicy Beer-Cheese-Sausage Soup
Josh and I spent 21 hours in Chattanooga last Friday/Saturday. It was a whirlwind trip of good people, great sightseeing, and suffice it to say, phenomenal food. I certainly wouldn't have guessed that Chattanooga was such a foodie destination, but the numerous local/organic/sustainable restaurants and grocery stores prove otherwise. I’ll have a list of recommendations at the end of this post if you ever find yourself in Chattanooga.
My first and most heartily-recommended spot would be the Terminal Brewhouse, on 14th street (next to the Choo-Choo Hotel), the inspiration from which today’s recipe comes. When we find ourselves out of town, we generally try to order whatever appears to be the most special item on the menu, judging by clues in the item’s description or title (look for words such as “house-made” or “best-seller” in the description). Josh landed on a mind-blowing soup entitled simply, “The Soup.”
“The Soup” is your traditional beer-cheese soup, kicked up with the addition of smoked Polish sausage, chipotles and jalapenos. It was creamy, smoky and too spicy, but otherwise perfect. I had to know the secret…I had to have it in my kitchen. I’d say we got pretty darn close, if not dead-on aside from a significant decrease in spice.
You will need:
1 pound smoked sausage, preferably Kielbasa, chopped
1 large onion, diced finely
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 stalks celery, diced finely
1 medium jalapeno, diced finely
2 small chipotle peppers, canned in adobo sauce (I rinsed the sauce off to control the heat), chopped
2 12-ounce bottles dark beer (I used a combination of Porter and Bock - both Michelob)
2 ½ cups chicken broth
1 ½ cups plus 3 tablespoons heavy cream, divided
1 8-ounce block sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon corn starch
Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot and add chopped sausage. Cook until sausage starts to brown and remove to a plate; reserve grease.
Add onions, garlic, jalapeno, chipotle and celery to pot and cook in sausage grease until soft. Add the sausage back to the pot, and stir to combine over medium heat.
Pour in one bottle of beer (I started with the Bock, but I can’t imagine it makes much of a difference what goes in first). Allow to simmer for 5-7 minutes, until the liquid reduces slightly as the alcohol cooks out. Stir and add chicken broth and salt. Simmer again for 10 minutes until the liquid reduces a little more. Reduce heat and add another bottle of beer (in my case it was the Porter). Simmer for a few moments and adjust seasonings again before turning heat to low and adding 1½ cups heavy cream. Simmer the soup for a good 20 minutes after adding the cream.
In a small bowl, add 3 tablespoons cream to one tablespoon of corn starch, and mix until a smooth slurry forms. Pour into soup and stir.
Once the vegetables are softened, the broth thickened, the alcohol cooked out and the soup is a uniform creaminess (you will know when there’s very little orange grease floating on top of the soup), turn off the heat and move the pot to a cool burner. Add the cheese and stir until melted (do not add cheese over a hot burner; cheddar gets gritty). Serve immediately.
The Terminal Brewhouse
Aretha Frankenstein's - home to one of the best biscuits I've ever had.
Rembrandt's Coffee Shop - try the chocolate cappuccino cup, Italian soda and sweet tea.
Bluff View Bakery - I couldn't help but deviate from Atkins for this one. Asiago Cheese Boule. Oy.