CHEDDAR CHEESE & ALE SOUP with FOCACCIA BREAD CROUTONS

4 thick-cut bacon slices, cut into 3 inch strips

2 T unsalted butter

1 large onion, diced

2 large carrots, diced

3 sticks of celery, diced

2 cloves garlic, diced

1/3 C all purpose flour

1 bottle ale (I use Samuel Adams Boston Ale)

1 T Worcestershire sauce

2 C milk

1 quart Chicken broth (32 oz.)

1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Salt and ground pepper, to taste

Toasted croutons for garnish

White truffle oil for drizzling

In a Dutch oven, over medium high heat, cook bacon 8-10 minutes; drain on paper towels.  Discard all but 2 T fat, leaving the 2 T in the pot.  Reduce heat to medium; melt butter, add onion, carrots, and celery; cook, covered, approx. 20 minutes.  Add garlic, cook 1 minute.  Add flour, cook, stirring occasionally, 3-4 minutes.  Add ale; cook, stirring constantly 2-3 minutes.  Add Worcestershire, milk and broth, bring to simmer, over medium high heat.  Reduce heat to medium low; simmer 10-12 minutes.  Puree with immersion blender.  Strain with a large strainer (this is an extra step, but makes this soup much smoother).

Set pot over medium low heat, add cheese by handfuls, stirring constantly, do not boil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Ladle soup into bowls.  Garnish with croutons and bacon, drizzle with white truffle oil.  Serves 6-8.

Focaccia Bread Croutons:

Rosemary from my Rosemary Christmas Tree!

1 loaf Focaccia bread with rosemary (Winn-Dixie has a great line of bread called “Winn & Lovett”, I get their Rosemary Focaccia)

2 T unsalted butter

1 tsp. rosemary, chopped

Cut bread in slices, butter each slice, sprinkle rosemary on top.  Cut each slice in cubes.  Bake cubes on sheet pan in 350 degree oven for 8 – 10 minutes, turning once.  Toward, the end, turn on broiler to high and let brown.  Watch very closely, as they can burn fast.  The browning will take 1 to 2 minutes.

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