Varying the types of cheeses used in a typical cheese-potato soup yields a rich and distinctive Alpine Cheese Soup.
Cheese soups tend to favor Cheddar as the preferred variety. This should not be surprising; Cheddar is a flavorful, easily available cheese with good melting properties and widespread popularity. But swapping this key ingredient for some select alternatives can bring a new and fresh aspect on a traditional pub standard.
Gorgonzola is an Italian cow’s-milk blue cheese originally from Milan. It is inoculated with a blue-green mold (specifically, Penicillium glaucum) that leaves it with a marbled, veined appearance and a tangy, almost sour flavor. Add to this a bit of shredded Gruyère, a hard yellow Swiss cheese with a creamy, nutty flavor and good melting properties, for a profile that bookends the Alps with its faux-fondue nature.
Many cheese soups rely on a roux (fat + flour) as a thickening agent, or similarly a cornstarch slurry, or simply a sizable quantity of heavy cream. All are valid methods with their own attributes, but this recipe uses none of these. As essentially a potato soup with cheese, a portion of the cooked potatoes are puréed and returned to the pot as a starchy thickener without added heft.
Other ingredients are included to reinforce the Alpine nature such as fresh leeks, Italian parsley and a shot of brandy to finish. Similar regional choices can also be considered such as prosciutto, gnocchi or Parmigiano-Reggiano. Yukon Gold potatoes can be substituted for an even smoother texture, and a dollop of sour cream would not be unwelcome.
Garnish with chopped scallions or chives, and serve with a crusty yeast bun.
Alpine Cheese Soup
½ yellow onion, diced
1 leek, chopped
1 carrot, diced
4 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 T butter
4 c vegetable broth
5 oz Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
3 oz Gruyere cheese, grated
¼ c half-and-half
1 t thyme
1 bay leaf
½ T brandy
1 clove garlic, minced
Italian parsley, finely chopped
1 Sauté the onion, leek and carrot in the butter over medium heat until soft but not browned, about 5 min.
2 Add the potatoes, garlic, broth and seasonings. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until cooked through, about 20 min.
3 Stir in the cheese and dairy. Remove about 1 c and puree until smooth, then stir back into the pot. Add the brandy and parsley and cook until heated through, about 2 min.