Playing Rachael’s Beer Cheese Soup and Cauliflower Salad

A crunchy, pickle-laced salad is the perfect side for this creamy soup with a cheesy popcorn topping.

*For popcorn topping, heat 2 tablespoons oil in pan with lid over medium-high heat, add ½ cup popcorn kernels, and pop, covered, shaking the pan, then remove from heat and add an even sprinkle, about 1½ teaspoons paprika and 2 tablespoons powdered cheese (available online from several spice vendors in white and yellow cheddar). Or buy a sack of Smartfood!

Ingredients
For the soup:
  • 2 carrots, peeled, fine dice
  • 1 parsnip, peeled, fine dice
  • 3 ribs celery with leafy tops, fine dice
  • 1 large white onion, fine dice
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoons paprika, 2/3 scant palmful
  • 2 teaspoons dried mustard
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper sauce, such as Frank's RedHot
  • 1 bottle beer, preferably a lager
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 quart whole milk
  • Two (12)-ounce packages sharp shredded cheddar cheese, yellow or white (5 cups total)
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
To serve:
  • Finely chopped chives
  • Freshly buttered popcorn with paprika and powdered white or yellow powder* OR store-bought cheddar popcorn
For the salad:
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces of stem and florets
  • Salt
  • 1/2 medium red onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery with leafy tops, chopped
  • About 3/4 cup olives with pimiento, drained and chopped
  • 1 cup loosely packed parsley tops, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup Italian hot cherry pepper rings, drained and coarsely chopped
For the dressing:
  • 1 large clove garlic, grated or pasted
  • 1 scant teaspoon dried oregano or marjoram
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon wine vinegar, red or white
  • About 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, EVOO
  • Salt and pepper
Yield
Serves: 4 to 6
Preparation

For the soup, add chopped carrots, parsnips, celery, onion and garlic to food processor and pulse until finely chopped.

Place a large deep skillet or medium soup pot on stove over medium-high heat, and add vegetable mixture and cook to soften, 2 minutes. Add salt, pepper, paprika, mustard, hot sauce and beer, bring to boil and reduce a minute, then add stock and bring to boil. Simmer at low rolling boil 20-25 minutes to reduce by half.  

Meanwhile, heat a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium to medium-high heat, add butter and melt. When foam subsides, whisk in flour, then add milk while whisking and allow base to thicken a bit to coat spoon. Season mildly with salt. Add cheese a few handfuls at a time, stirring with wooden spoon, until cheese is incorporated. Blend mixture with an immersion blender to create a velvety texture (this step is optional). Add Worcestershire and Dijon and stir to combine.

Slowly stir the reduced vegetable mixture into cheese mixture. Mix until smooth.

To serve, top with chives and popcorn*.

*For popcorn topping (if making), heat 2 tablespoons oil in pan with lid over medium-high heat, add ½ cup popcorn kernels, and pop, covered, shaking the pan, then remove from heat and add an even sprinkle, about 1½ teaspoons paprika and 2 tablespoons powdered cheese (available online from several spice vendors in white and yellow cheddar). Or buy a sack of Smartfood!

For the salad, bring a few inches of water to a rolling boil in a deep skillet or pot. Set up a large bowl of ice water.

Trim and cut cauliflower while water comes to boil. Season water with salt, add cauliflower and cook 5 minutes or so to tender-crisp, drain in fine strainer and cold-shock by submerging the strainer in the ice water. Drain and dry the cauliflower, then place in large bowl with onion, celery, olives, parsley and cherry peppers.

For the dressing, whisk garlic, oregano or marjoram, lemon and vinegar, stream in oil, then season dressing with salt and pepper.  

Dress cauliflower salad and toss to combine; chill or serve.