"They had eaten beer potage, thick with croutons and cheese, and Ciri had been surprised they had not be served mushrooms as well."
- Blood of Elves, by Andrzej Sapkowski
I was thrilled when I first read this passage. I imagined a warm, comforting soup made with old world cheddar, cured pork, and Polish beer. I quickly thought of my Rustic Beer Bread recipe for the croutons.
When I considered the soup's flavors, I tried to ask myself, "what would be on the menu at the witchers' lair, Kaer Morhen?" The best answer I came up with is that I imagine they'd have salt pork.
I decided to fry salt pork until its fat rendered, and crispy pork bits were all that was left. I then removed the crispy salt pork and set it aside. I fried onions and garlic in the leftover fat. The result is a delicious, creamy soup that tastes like pork, cheese, and a hint of malt from the beer.
To finish my beer and cheese soup, I topped it with homemade croutons and rendered salt pork bits.
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, chopped
- 5 ounces salt pork, cut into small thin pieces
- 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 5 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/4 cup flour
- 3 cups unsalted chicken stock
- 1 12-ounce Polish-style lager
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 7 ounces English cheddar, shredded
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
- 1/2 loaf rustic beer bread
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover a full-sized baking sheet with parchment paper. Tear bread into bite-sized pieces and place on prepared baking sheet. Toss the bread pieces in olive oil and bake for 20 minutes until light brown - flip the croutons half way through. Set croutons aside.
Add salt pork and vegetable oil to heavy-bottomed pot. Heat the pot's contents over medium heat - be wary of fat splatters. After about 10 minutes, the salt pork should be brown and crispy - remove from pot with a slotted spoon or spatula. Once cool, chop into tiny crumbles and set aside.
Add thinly sliced onions to the pot, and cook until softened - about 5 minutes. Add crushed garlic and continue sautéing for several minutes until garlic is soft and fragrant. Next, add all 5 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Once the butter has melted, add all of the flour and stir until it forms a thick paste with the garlic and onions. Reduce heat to low and cook until the mixture is a dark brown (takes about 10 minutes).
Once the mixture has thickened, add the chicken stock, beer, and heavy cream. Whisk together and simmer for 10 minutes. Once the broth has thickened, begin adding the shredded cheese one handful at a time, stirring after each handful. Once all of the cheese is incorporated, remove the soup from heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
Puree the soup using either a full-sized or immersion blender. Strain the soup into a large bowl. Place plenty of bread crumbs on your beer and cheese soup, and add several teaspoons of crunchy salt pork. Serve immediately.