Cheddar and Hard Cider Soup with Fried Shallots
Apples and Cheddar cheese are a classic pairing of tart and sharp flavors. Here, this classic combo tastes even better, as it’s matched with thinly slivered shallot rings that have taken a dive into hot oil to create a crispy, crunchy topping. Serve a crisp, lightly dressed salad on the side, and ready yourself for the compliments from your dinner guests.
For the fried shallots:
- 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) canola oil
For the soup:
- 4 Tbs. (2 oz./60 g) unsalted butter
- 2 yellow onions, chopped
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 1 Yukon gold potato, peeled and chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups (20 fl. oz./625 ml) chicken broth
- 2 1/2 cups (20 fl. oz./625 ml) hard apple cider
- 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) half-and-half
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 thyme sprigs
- 2 Tbs. applejack or Calvados brandy
- 3/4 lb. (375 g) English Cheddar cheese, shredded
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
To make the fried shallots, in a small bowl, stir together the flour, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Add the shallots and toss to coat. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the oil until it is very hot. Shake off any excess flour from the shallots and fry until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Drain on paper towels and season with salt.
To make the soup, in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat, melt 3 Tbs. of the butter. Add the onions, celery, potato and garlic and stir. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 12 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring constantly, until the flour is incorporated. While stirring constantly, gradually add the broth, cider and half-and-half. Raise the heat to medium-high, add the bay leaves and thyme sprigs, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer to blend the flavors, about 10 minutes.
Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs from the soup and discard. Remove the soup from the heat and let cool slightly.
Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender. Pour into a clean pot. Stir in the applejack. Off the heat, while whisking constantly, gradually add the cheese one handful at a time. Continue whisking until all the cheese is melted. Place over medium-low heat, stir in 1 tsp. salt and pepper to taste, and cook gently, stirring often, until heated through, about 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve immediately, garnished with the fried shallots. Serves 6 to 8.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Soup of the Day, by Kate McMillan (Weldon Owen, 2011)