Tuesday, January 25, 2011

For the Cheeseheads

I think the Packers Super Bowl mania subconciously impacted my dinner menu tonight. Living in the frozen tundra that is Milwaukee, I often get cravings for soup. It's been way too long since I've made my own pot of soup, but tonight seemed like as good a time as any.

My soup-making typically starts with something I happen to have on hand or an ingredient I have an abundance of. Today that was potatoes. I bought a bag with a few recipes in mind, but ended up changing course. Now I have to use them before they grow eyes!

I don't know about you, but in my mind potatoes and cheese are a natural pair. It's like peanut butter and jelly, milk and cookies, pancakes and syrup (unless you happen to be in Odessa, TX, right, Michelle?) So tonight I couldn't think of anything better than cheesy potato soup!

Cheese Potato Chowder
3 medium red potatoes, diced (and peeled, if preferred)
2 medium carrots, diced
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup butter
3 green onions, diced
1/4 cup flour
Salt and pepper
3 cups milk
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Add potatoes, carrots and water to a medium saucepan. Heat to boiling, reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a large saucepan. Add onions and cook until soft (but not brown). Whisk in flour, salt and pepper. Stir in milk. Add potatoes and carrots (with their cooking liquid). Cook until bubbling and stir 1 minute more.

Add cheese and stir constantly until melted. Allow to cook over medium heat a few minutes longer. Ladle into soup bowls and serve (maybe with extra cheese on top!).

Super simple recipe and so good. The only problem I had (and have had in the past) is that my cheese had a not-so-smooth, almost grainy texture. I theorized that this could be for a few reasons: 

a) I used reduced fat cheese, which has a different, less creamy texture than full fat cheese and probably melts differently
b) My heat could have been too high, which seems to result in a less even melt

I did a little research and it turns out both of those things could be right. First, fat is a stabilizer which supposedly keeps the cheese from curdling. However, this was noted in reference to milk, not cheese. Many recipes for creamy soups or chowders recommend using whole milk or heavy cream. I used skim milk in my soup, so perhaps that coupled with the reduced fat cheese produced less desirable results.

Second, many posts I read suggested that you add your cheese off the heat or over very low heat. This keeps the soup from bubbling or coming to a boil, which can apparently have some funky effects on melted cheese.

I'll try these tips on my next venture into cheesy soup. Oh, and next time I'll also be adding a dollop of sour cream and a handful of crumbled bacon. Just to take it up a notch :)


  1. I'm convinced I belong in Wisconsin in some capacity. Potatoes+cheese+soup=perfect! My favorite soups are the really fatty, floury ones, like clam chowder and corn potato chowder (Whole Foods makes both that are SO good!). And taking it up a notch is only improving on perfection? How does one do that? Perfect perfection? I guess so!

  2. BTW, it's even better reheated the next day :)