Kielbasa & Shrimp Jambalaya.


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As most of you know, it’s Mardi Gras, and for those of you too responsible to go out drinking tonight…or too cheap to hire a babysitter…or too resigned to the fact that both of your children will be up all night if you have a raging buzz…try cooking the bayou instead of drinking it. I know, it’s not going to replace the beads anytime soon, but c’mon, is flashing really a great idea with the Internet doing what it does? Only if you want generations of ancestors to know what a cheap drunk you were. This meal will fill you up right and is a relatively simple, hearty meal on a frigid Minnesota night. It also is guaranteed to not give you a hangover.

Kielbasa & Shrimp Jambalaya.

Recipe by Max Date

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 lb.  pre-cooked shrimp, thawed and de-tailed

¾ lb. kielbasa, cut into ½” pieces (you can also substitute Andouille or chicken)

1 tsp. Cajun seasoning

¾ c. celery, chopped

¾ c. carrots, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

1 medium red onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 – 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes with juices

3 tbsp. tomato paste

½ tsp. oregano

¾ tsp. thyme

¾ tsp. paprika

¼ tsp. allspice

1-1/2 c. chicken stock

1-1/4 c. rice

Bay leaf

Tabasco, for serving

Heat oil over medium heat, and add kielbasa, celery, carrot, onion, bell pepper, and Cajun seasoning. Cook until veggies are tender, approximately 7-8 minutes, stirring regularly. Add minced garlic with 1-2 minutes remaining in cook cycle.

Add chicken stock, tomatoes, tomato paste, remaining spices, and bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in rice, cover, and cook an additional 15 minutes. Add shrimp and cook for 5 minutes additional, or until shrimp is no longer pink and rice is tender.

Remove bay leaf before serving. Serve with Tabasco and crusty bread.

A Super Bowl of Chili.


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You may be aware there’s a football game in 10 days between Brandon Browner’s former team and Brandon Browner’s current team. As tradition would have it, people who generally don’t care about football (or root for teams that never win) gather together for one evening to pretend they’ve been on one of these critical-mass bandwagons all along. People wager on the coin flip, eagerly anticipate commercials for companies who inevitably will go defunct because of the money they spent on those commercials, pretend Roger Goodell isn’t Satan for one day, speculate on what Bill Belichek did or didn’t know about Tom Brady’s deflated balls, and drink themselves into oblivion despite the next day being a normal fully-functioning work day. But mostly, and most importantly, people eat.

Whether you are hosting said event, or merely showing up to polish off your friend’s liquor cabinet, you are going to need to make a dish to keep everyone’s attention well past Katy Perry’s hopeful wardrobe malfunction. For me, that’s always been a big ol’ steaming super bowl of chili. I know, it’s not exactly reinventing the wheel. But much like the super football game being watched, people don’t want something exotic or hoity-toity, they want something familiar, dependable, and domestic. This is the Super Bowl, for God’s sake! THIS IS ‘MURICA! Save your one-bite falafel appetizers for the World Cup, hippie.

Everyone and their mother (or everyone’s mother) has a chili recipe, and everyone has a different take on what “chili” is. This is an original that I came up with a few years ago as part of a Dutch oven wedding gift, and I haven’t run into anyone who doesn’t like it. I’m not one of those guys who likes who likes chunks of beef in his chili, nor do I care for “white” chili or meatless chili (see previous hippie statement). HOWEVER, I do add baker’s chocolate to the chili, as well as cinnamon and brown sugar. I don’t have an actual culinary explanation, but I think it gives it that little extra something something.

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I like chili that has some heat to it, and this one does, but I’d call it about a 6 or 7 out of 10. I don’t want something so mild I think I’m eating thickened minestrone, but I also want to be able to use my taste buds the next day. Feel free to adjust the pepper usage up or down as you see fit, though – if you have kids or true Minnesotans eating it, you may want to pump the breaks.

Lastly, this can be made on the stove in a Dutch oven or in a slow cooker. It takes about 90 minutes simmering on the stove (probably more like two hours for a double-batch), and 4-5 hours on low in the slow cooker. If you are doubling the recipe for a crowd, make sure your vessel is big enough. That’s what she said.

Of course, with any chili, if you don’t bring cheese, sour cream, and scallions to accompany your dish, you may as well have brought two quarts of kangaroo excrement, so plan wisely. Bring cornbread, too. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that. Enjoy the food, and enjoy the footballs, regardless of the PSI.

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CHILI TO THE MAX

Recipe courtesy of Max Date

Makes 6 full-meal portions

  • 4 strips of cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 1 pound ground beef (or ground turkey, if you’re like that)
  • ¾ cup chopped onions
  • ¾ cup chopped bell pepper (any colour you like)
  • ¾ cup corn kernels
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 red chili peppers, minced (seeded for less heat)
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper minced (ditto)
  • 14-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 14-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 14-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup of American beer (Budweiser is preferable)
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 ounce unsweetened baker’s chocolate
  • 1 bay leaf

Suggested garnishes: shredded sharp cheddar, chopped green onion, sour cream, cornbread, and hot sauce, to taste

Note: If you’re using the slow cooker, start with a frying pan. If you’re using a stock pot or Dutch oven, start with that.

Cook the bacon until crispy, and brown the ground beef. Set aside. Keep one tablespoon of grease in the pane, and sauté the onions and green pepper until onions are translucent (about 3-4 minutes). Add minced garlic, chili pepper and jalapeno and sauté until perfumed, another minute or so.

If you’re using slow cooker, transfer sautéed items and meat to the slow cooker, add the remaining ingredients/spices, mix well, and cook on low setting for 4-5 hours. Otherwise, continue with the recipe directions.

Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and beer, bring to a boil, then reduce to medium-low heat. Add the corn and beans, and all of the spices. Add the bacon and ground beef back to the mixture as well. Simmer, covered, on low heat for 90 minutes (2 hours for double-batch), stirring occasionally.

Serve on top of corn bread with garnishes.

Turkey Ramen Soup.


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Soup. Reliable, comforting, unsexy soup. Why?

  • It’s winter – don’t let the 45-degree weekend fool you, people. Twenty-degree temps will be back to kick your respective private areas starting today.
  • You very likely have a cold. Or, as in my house, everyone has just passed the two-week mark of being Ebola-free, but could descend back into phlegm-hacking chaos at any moment.
  • One pot, one cutting board. Minimal mess, quick cook time. Perfect weeknight meal.
  • Soup is pretty hard to screw up. You literally can’t overcook it. Well, I mean, you COULD, but it’d take a lot of work. You’d probably have to pass out for an extended period of time. Most likely, your house will burn down before soup gets ruined. It’s foolproof!
  • In spite of the fact that we’re two-plus weeks clear of Thanksgiving, you still have leftover turkey. That’s because, as Americans, we’re ingrained to believe that a 19-pound turkey won’t be enough food for six people. You also likely had someone double up on the veggie tray, so this will burn through some of your surplus carrots and celery.

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But above and beyond all else, this soup is pretty effing good (side note: the Microsoft spell check recognizes “effing” as a word. What a time to be alive). It’s an original recipe, too, so I don’t need to waste your time letting you know what I changed, nor do I need to fawn over the original chef (…any more than I already do. Max high-fives Max!).

In an ideal world, I’d say use chicken stock, but I used bullion and it was just fine. You can use egg noodles if you’re really into the whole wide noodle thing, but I’ve never met a dish that didn’t do just fine with ramen noodles (including ramen noodles rolling solo). Lastly, if you don’t have any turkey left, try using a pound of rotisserie chicken. I need to check to see if anyone has ever made a soup with chicken and noodles first, but it should prolly work.

So there you go: use up some leftovers, get over your winter maladies, and have some tasty vittles.

And, as always, remember to garnish with a fried egg. Yes, the Egg Council has gotten to me too.

TURKEY RAMEN SOUP – By Max Date

Prep Time: 10 minutes / Cook Time: 30 minutes

1 tbsp. butter
2-3 medium carrots, chopped
2-3 celery stalked, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. garlic, minced
1 lb. precooked turkey or chicken (preferably dark meat), roughly chopped
6 c. chicken stock/broth
¾ tsp. dried basil
¾ tsp. dried parsley
½ tsp. dried thyme
¼ tsp. cayenne powder
3 packages of ramen noodles, flavor packets discarded
4 fried eggs, for garnish
Sriracha, for garnish

Directions:

Melt butter in stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add carrots, celery and onion and cook until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and flour and cook for additional minute. Add chicken stock, meat, basil, parsley, thyme and cayenne. Increase heat to bring soup just to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer an additional 5-10 minutes. Add ramen noodles and cook through, 3-5 minutes.

While the soup is cooking, fry four eggs. Ladle soup into serving bowls, and garnish with fried egg and Sriracha.

Good-Quality Brownies from the Hamptons.


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Back when Food Network showed shows about non-contestant forms of cooking, I used to ridicule the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. For one, she came off as just a HAIR aloof, like specifying to use GOOD olive oil (as opposed to the Karkov-brand swill I’d been cooking with), and oh, I don’t know, LIVING IN THE HAMPTONS. For two, well…there really wasn’t a ‘two’, I guess. I just had a thing against rich people. That, and she talked about Jeffrey too much, when you could basically see him wiping secretary lipstick off of his collar as he walked in the door at the end of the day (or at least that was my speculation).

But let me tell you a thing about her brownies: She knows how to make a damn brownie. Now, if you remember many moons ago when I wrote my last blog, I stated something about taking intelligent shortcuts and being okay with 90% of the results if it meant 10% of the work. I have no problem with boxed brownies; I will house boxed brownies all day long.

These brownies, however, are for when you want to show the love in a way that boxed brownies simply can’t do. These brownies are for when you don’t want to do anything else but spend an extra 20 minutes in the kitchen and have your taste buds reap all of the benefits. These brownie are when you want to give a high and tall middle finger to all those prude doctors that say, “You shouldn’t consume a pound of butter and another pound of sugar.” I love these brownies so much, I have the recipe displayed on the front of “Tasty Vittles”, my three-ring binder of recipes (even though it’s committed to memory at this point).

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I’m not a natural baker. I mean, I’m not a natural COOKER, either, but, save for a mean batch of chocolate chip cookies, I really only started baking in the last couple of years. For you cookers that aren’t bakers, please keep in mind that trying to amend quantities or substitute ingredients in baking is the worst idea you could ever have. It doesn’t work, so don’t try it. Having said that, I always omit the instant coffee granules (sorry, I don’t have any Sanka sitting around the house) and the walnuts (gross), and nobody’s said, “Hey, these brownies don’t have enough nuts or coffee in them.” These brownies are Kevin Date, chocoholic, approved.

As an additional note for you non-bakers, don’t get water and chocolate mixed up – it’s like getting a Gremlin wet. If you’re worried your double-boiler might go amiss (or if you view a double-boiler as archaic and tedious), just microwave the chocolate chips, unsweetened chocolate, and butter. Start with 90 seconds, stir, and add 45 seconds until fully melted. AND DON’T GET IT WET. OR LET IT EAT AFTER MIDNIGHT.

Lastly, I cut this recipe in half, because I have no self-control in the field of chocolate, and don’t need 1.5 square feet of brownies beckoning me. But 3/4 of a square foot? Bring it.

Recipe courtesy of Ina Garten and FoodNetwork.com :

recipe/video link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/outrageous-brownies-recipe3.html

OUTRAGEOUS BROWNIES

Ingredients

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 12 x 18 x 1-inch baking sheet.

Melt together the butter, 1 pound of chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water. Allow to cool slightly. In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, sift together 1 cup of flour, the baking powder, and salt. Add to the cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and 12 ounces of chocolate chips in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup of flour (not this much; just enough to coat), then add them to the chocolate batter. Pour into the baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes, then rap the baking sheet against the oven shelf to force the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Bake for about 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not overbake! Allow to cool thoroughly, refrigerate, and cut into 20 large squares.

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Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork Rolls.


and coleslaw. and love.

It’s easy to be lazy. Case in point: this blog has not been updated in two months (thank you very little, seasonal work schedule), and – let’s be honest – this one certainly isn’t exactly going to be “War and Peace”. But sometimes being lazy can yield surprisingly delicious results – at least when they’re intelligently employed.

Semi-stealing a page out of the Sandra Lee school of cooking and opening bottles, this meal is really more assembly and patience than straight-up cooking, but hey, it’s the summer, and there are apparently more pressing things at hand. Why toil in the kitchen when lemonade and gin go so well together after a 10-hour work day? This recipe utilizes my favorite meat (pork), my favorite cooking device (the slow cooker), and a few pre-packaged ingredients, which I will rationalize now:

Pre-shredded Cole Slaw Mix: First, you can’t shred cabbage that finely and simultaneously keep all of your fingers. Second, have you ever shredded an entire cabbage?? You have enough coleslaw for like three weeks. I enjoy coleslaw, but I also like moderation.

Rudolph’s Coleslaw Dressing and Garland Jack’s Barbeque Sauce: Could you or I make either one of these and have what would probably be a superior product? Yes, but these are both very good prepackaged products, and if I can get 90 percent of the flavor for less money and lot less work…well…please refer to the first sentence of this post.

Lastly, I enjoy pineapple in my coleslaw. I understand that not everyone does, though I do not understand why. The irony in this is that, for all of the other shortcuts I’m taking, PLEASE USE FRESH PINEAPPLE. That is all.

Is this a porterhouse from Murray’s? No. But it is an eminently edible meal pretty much every day of the week. AND I’M NOT ONE TO BRAG, but this was the concoction that earned me the title of “Chef Max” at Ston’s bachelor party last year. So I have that going for me – which is nice.

What you need:

3-lb. pork butt or shoulder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. cayenne
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 c. chicken broth
1 package of pre-shredded coleslaw mix
1 c. diced fresh pineapple
1 bottle Rudolph’s Coleslaw Dressing
½ bottle Garland Jack’s Barbeque Sauce
1 package of King’s Hawaiian Rolls

Trim excess fat. Season the pork with salt, pepper, cayenne and brown sugar, ideally the night before, but at least an hour ahead of time.

Heat some oil over medium-high heat in frying pan. Sear the pork on each side for around 6 minutes.

Transfer the pork to a slow cooker and add 1 cup of chicken broth. Cook on low setting for 8 hours.

Meanwhile, make coleslaw by (PAY CLOSE ATTENTION) mixing the coleslaw dressing into the coleslaw mix. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Once pork is cooked, place in a bowl and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Shred pork with forks, and add sauce to your liking (I personally don’t like drowning it, but to each his or her own).

Fill rolls with generous helping of both pork and coleslaw (yes, both go on the sandwich). Serve with aforementioned gin and lemonade.

Basil & Brie Sandwiches.


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I’m sure your life is busy. My life is busy, too. But even when I didn’t have to keep tabs on a wife and two kids, life didn’t often allow time to prepare a four-course meal.

Rarely, in fact, does it allow for a meal that doesn’t contain the term “frozen mixed vegetables” or “Cool Ranch Doritos” (not that there’s anything wrong with either one of those items). So when you can find a nice twist on a classic and easy meal combo, *Martha Stewart voice* it’s a good thing. Everyone loves tomato soup and grilled cheese, and although I would be the hypocrite of the century to bad-mouth either canned soup OR Velveeta, it’s nice to class things up a bit on occasion and pretend you weren’t brought up in a mobile home park. Enter Basil & Brie Sandwiches with a hearty bowl of tomato soup.

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THE SANDWICH: Don’t let the name fool you; there’s chocolate on them, too. WHAT CAN POSSIBLY GO WRONG??? You have the melt-iest cheese in the world – brie melts if you LOOK at it cock-eyed. I have no idea why brie hasn’t been considered as the default grilled cheese sandwich cheese – must be because nobody likes the French. You have basil, which I like using the way boring people use parsley. You have sourdough, which is crusty and delicious. And you have chocolate, which is proof that God exists and wants us to all be happy (okay, I stole that from Ben Franklin’s quip about beer, but it works here, too).

THE SOUP: I love to make homemade soup, but I’ve found that in a lot of cases, if you can get 90% of the end results with 15% of the effort, it’s worth it. Find a higher-quality tomato soup (Trader Joe’s organic is pretty good) and go all Sandra Lee on the bit. If you want to get snooty and impress some females with your homemade soup style, give this one a shot.

The sandwich is a Giada recipe off of the Food Network website, and before Food Network went solely to playing food contests, reality shows, and Guy Fieri, I really enjoyed watching “Everyday Italian.” After all, whenever there’s an opportunity to watch a lady in a low-cut shirt over-enunciate Italian food terminology, I’m on board. Not only does this make a tasty and easy lunch, I have toyed with making mini-sandwiches as an appetizer at my next dinner party. I’m kidding, I have kids; I never do anything REMOTELY formal or refined. But IF I DID, I totally WOULD.

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MODIFICATIONS: when you find delight in sandwich form, you don’t mess with it. Also, there really isn’t anything TO mess with. Limited, very specific ingredients don’t lend themselves well to ad-libbing.

DID MY SON EAT IT? Given the culinary fickleness of my son, I’m beginning to question how all humans made it past the age of two. Seriously, it’s a chocolate and cheese sandwich; you don’t NEED to have a hot dog every meal of the day. Just saying. No, he didn’t eat it, but did manage to pack away a hot dog and a couple of stalks of celery. Some day, I tell myself, your children will think you’re a great cook. Sigh. Some day.

THE RECIPE (courtesy of FoodNetwork.com)

Preheat the grill.

Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil. Grill the bread slices until they begin to turn golden, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the panini grill and place 2 ounces of cheese on 1 slice of bread (the bottom half), top the cheese with 1/3 cup chocolate chips, and a sprinkle of basil. Top with another slice of bread. Continue with the remaining sandwiches. Return the sandwiches to the grill until the chocolate begins to melt, about another 2 minutes.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/panini-with-chocolate-and-brie-recipe.html

Beer Cheese Soup.


Sometimes the food gods are looking out for you.

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Like many untrained cooks who fancy Instagram’ing and blogging about their culinary delights, I enjoy cooking for the season – in essence, hibernation food when it’s cold, fresh and light food when it’s not. Well, one of the silver linings to living in the meteorological hell known as Minnesota is that either can be in play pretty much any day of the year. Today was one of the days where a comfort food favorite sprung forth from the union of “for April, it’s really effing cold” and “I’d really like to clean the refrigerator out”: beer cheese soup.

Beer cheese soup, you say? What the hell? I agree: usually, this food-coma-inducing, artery-clogging delicacy never sees the light of a springtime day. Beer cheese soup just screams “meal for when it’s dark by 4:30 pm”. But when a trip to the grocery store is past due, and your only real supplies are cheese, kielbasa, and random vegetables, it’s OK to pretend the calendar says December, not late April. With the Minnesota forecast looking roughly the same for the better portion of the week, this soup might just sneak its way into your weekly meal-planning.

OVERVIEW: This recipe was created by Otto’s Sausage Kitchen and Meat Market in Portland, OR, though the recipe is off of Food Network thanks to Otto’s appearance on Triple-D. I didn’t see this particular episode, but I’m sure there was at least one comment as to this individual dish’s righteousness and how it was transporting Mr. Fieri directly to Flavor Town. Bro.

photo 3SUBSTITUTIONS: Although I do dig this recipe on its own – it’s definitely your prototypical thick-ass beer cheese soup – I like to incorporate some “Mary Date”-esque vegetable addition along the way (because if you’re going to eat a bowl of melted cheese, you may as well supplement the heart attack with some vitamins and minerals). In addition to the carrots and celery, I added some cauliflower and potatoes, and WOULD have added broccoli, had I not been trying to clear the fridge out with my ham and broccoli egg bake this morning. I can also see peas and/or corn being not-terrible additions to this soup.

I do have a confession to make: I did not have any beer in the house. Seeing as how it’s Sunday, and I live in a state senseless enough to retain blue laws, the addition of beer was not really an option. However, I did have a few bottles of N/A beer my pregnant wife bought six months ago. Was it ideal? Nah. Did it work? I suppose – I didn’t really notice a significant flavor difference, though I wasn’t really in a position to compare side-by-side. Again, I’m not proud of this admission, but we all have these moments.

Lastly, is it possible to have too much cheddar? Probably not, but I think I pushed that envelope as far as it would go. In lieu of the Swiss cheese called for in the recipe, I used cheddar jack. Again, it was a fridge-cleaning move, and cheddar jack + extra sharp cheddar = something pretty damn close to cheese dip. That’s why I used 1% milk instead of half-and-half. I know this contradicts every “fat man inside a skinny man’s body” instinct I have, but the soup can handle being thinned out just a little, and I don’t think you lose too much in the process. But hey, I like being able to see my feet – live your life. Hakuna Matata.

DID MY SON EAT IT? As is usually the case, the kielbasa was a hit with Damien. Because, you know, kielbasa is really just a great big hot dog. Other than that, not really. Which is SORT of surprising in the way that he usually destroys cheese, but not surprising in the way that said cheese is usually in block form.

Spring may have allegedly sprung, but while Mother Nature is still going through her experimental college phase this week, sneak some more comfort food onto the menu. Hey, it’s not like swimsuit season is going to be here any time soon.

photo 4RECIPE:

 

1/2 cup butter
1 chopped medium sized yellow onion (white onion)
At least 1/2 cup chopped carrot
At least 1/2 cup chopped celery

½ cup chopped cauliflower

1 medium potato
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 (12-ounce) beer of choice (recommended: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Blind Pig) (um…N/A beer. D’oh)
7 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, shredded
7 ounces processed Swiss cheese, shredded (7 oz. cheddar jack)
2 cups half-and-half (2.5 c. 1% milk)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 pound smoked sausage (recommended: Otto’s Smoked Polish Ring) (Sorry, Otto. I’ll visit your restaurant if I’m ever in Portland)

Directions

Melt butter in a stockpot over medium heat. Add chopped onion, carrot, and celery. Sauté until softened. Add flour. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Add chicken broth and beer. Heat until it comes to a boil. Slowly add cheese while stirring until just boiling and smooth. Add half-and-half, salt, dry mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Reduce heat to low and cook until soup has thickened. Cut smoked sausage into 1/2-inch pieces and place in a saucepan. Sauté sausage over medium heat until heated through. It will probably take about 5 to 7 minutes. Add sausage to the soup, transfer to a large serving bowl and serve hot.

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ottos-beer-cheese-soup-recipe.html?oc=linkback