White Cheddar and Ale Soup
with Cheddar Grilled Cheese Croutons

INGREDIENTS
Soup:
4 Tablespoons butter
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced bell pepper
1 cup diced celery
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock
1½ cups Ale
1½ cups heavy cream
1 bay leaf
7 oz Old Croc Extra Sharp Cheddar, grated
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt & pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, bell pepper and celery and sauté for about 5 to 10 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic and flour and continue to sauté, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes.

Slowly whisk in stock, ale and heavy cream, and bring soup to a low boil. Add bay leaf, reduce heat and cook soup, stirring frequently for 20 to 30 minutes. When soup becomes thick and creamy, puree using either an immersion blender or a conventional blender.

When soup is smooth, gradually stir in grated Old croc, about ½ cup at a time, until it is completely melted and smooth. Add Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper to taste.

Croutons:
4 thick slices country white bread
2 tablespoons butter, melted
4 oz Old Croc Sharp White Cheddar, grated

Heat a pan over medium heat. On cutting board, brush bread with melted butter. Place one side of bread in the pan, butter side down, and pile half of shredded Old Croc on top. Place another slice of bread on top of cheese, butter side up.

Reduce heat and cook until both sides of bread are golden brown, about 2-4 minutes per side. Remove and repeat for other two slices of bread. Let cool, remove crusts, and cut into one-inch squares, creating croutons. Garnish soup with croutons, fresh parsley, any remaining shredded cheddar and serve.

Serves: 6