1. The first time we made this, we used Tillamook cheddar (from the coop).
2. From Cook's Illustrated's Soups & Stews.
3. To reheat: Reheat in a saucepan over low heat, whisking frequently to prevent the soup from separating and curdling. Avoid heating it beyond a bare simmer!
4. For a vegetarian version, use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.
5. The sherry, cheese, thyme, and pepper are used late in the recipe.
6. Use a Dutch oven. A stockpot is much too big.
7. Makes 4-6 full servings.
3 Tbl unsalted butter
1 med onion
1 small shallot
1 med carrot
1 small stalk celery
1 med clove garlic
2 Tbl flour
2-1/2 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
2-1/2 cups Half-and-half
1 bay leaf
Pinch of cayenne pepper
3 Tbl dry sherry
12 oz sharp white cheddar cheese (about 3 cups shredded)
1 Tbl fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
1. Shred the cheese (fine or medium) and set aside, covering with a moist paper towel. Set aside.
2. Mince and combine the onion and shallot. Set aside.
3. Mince and combine the celery, carrot, and garlic. Set aside.
4. In a Dutch oven, heat the butter over medium heat until foaming.
5. Add the onion and shallot, stirring occasionally until softened, about 4 minutes.
6. Add the carrot, celery, and garlic, cooking until fragrant, about 1 minute.
7. Add the flour, stirring to coat the vegetables, until the mixture begins to brown on the bottom of the pot, about 2 minutes.
8. Gradually whisk in the stock and half-and-half.
9. Add the bay leaf. Increase heat to medium-high.
10. When the mixture begins to boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer about 3 minutes, until the vegetables are softened.
11. Remove the pan from heat. Stir in the sherry and cayenne, then let rest for 2 minutes.
12. Slowly whisk in the cheese and thyme until the cheese melts.
13. Season with pepper--it may not need salt because of the cheese--and serve immediately.