Tuesday, September 30, 2014

One Great . . . pimento cheese soup

I'm trying to not feel jealous of food writer Perre Coleman Magness. When I met her on a recent food-writer trip to Memphis, she had just published her book "Pimento Cheese: The Cookbook" (St. Martin's Griffin, $21.99).

Yes, that would be an entire book with variations of pimento cheese, an idea that has made every Southern writer I know slap his/her forehead with a "Dang! Why didn't I write that?"

Perre (pronounced Perry) did, though, and she did a lovely job of coming up with variations and extensions of the beloved shredded cheese spread. Flipping through the book, I couldn't resist this, a great soup for cooler fall nights.

Pimento Cheese Soup 

From "Pimento Cheese: The Cookbook," by Perre Coleman Magness.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (4-ounce) jar diced pimentos, undrained
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken broth
3 cups whole milk
1 pound extra-sharp cheddar, grated
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and hot sauce, to taste

HEAT the olive oil over medium heat in a 5-quart pot. Add the carrot, celery and onion and saute until soft, stirring often. Stir in 1 tablespoon of pimentos and juice, then stir in the garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute longer.

SPRINKLE the paprika over the vegetables and cooking until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the flour, stirring to coat, and cook briefly. Pour in the chicken broth and stir well. Increase heat and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, partially cover the pot and simmer 15 minutes.

USE an immersion blender and puree until smooth. Or cool briefly, puree in batches in a blender and return to the pot. Stir in the milk. Increase heat to medium-high. When the soup is just steaming, add the grated cheese in handfuls, stirring after each addition. Don't let soup boil. Stir in the remaining pimentos and Worcestershire, then season to taste with salt, pepper and hot sauce.

SERVE immediately, or cool and refrigerate up to 1 day. Reheat slowly over medium heat; don't let soup boil.

YIELD: 6 servings.