So here’s the story…

It has been cold and rainy for the last couple days here – real soup weather. I definitely needed something to warm me up. Unfortunately, I had no idea what kind of soup I wanted to make.

I was sitting at home watching the Food Network and “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” with Guy Fieri came on. He was visiting Grover’s Bar and Grill in East Amherst, NY. What’s so special about East Amherst, you ask? Well it’s one of the few places you can get Cheeseburger Soup. Yes, Cheeseburger Soup.

I know it sounds kind of weird, but I imagined it to be just a cheesy, hearty, cream-based soup. That can’t be bad! Now, Bacon Cheeseburgers are where it’s at, so why not turn THAT into a soup! Throw a few jalapenos and some cayenne pepper to kick things up a bit and you’ve got yourself something that’ll keep you warm for hours! If not  DAYS!

Ingredients:

10 strips Maple Leaf Reclosable Bacon

1lb Lean Ground Beef

1 Large Onion

1 cup Carrots

1 cup Celery

2 Jalapenos (more if you like it spicy)

½ tbsp Cayenne Pepper

1 L Beef Stock

1 ½ cups Half and Half Cream

4 tbsp All Purpose Flour

LOTS Old Cheddar

Salt and Pepper to taste

*Optional: Sour Cream

Directions

1. Almost every soup begins with the aromatic Holy Grail: onions, celery and carrots. When these are cooked down, they take a kind back seat to enhance the rest of the flavours (whatever they may be) and allow them to be the star of the show. So we need to dice these things up first. Go ahead and cut up your jalapeno, as well.

2. Cut your bacon into one inch pieces and fry them until crispy in the bottom of a large pot or Dutch oven. Once crispy, remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon.

3. Into the remaining bacon fat, fry your jalapenos until soft, then toss in your ground beef. Break it up with a wooden spoon and keep stirring it. You’ll notice the ground beef will remove everything that was stuck to the bottom of the pan. This is a good thing; it’s soaked up all of that gorgeous bacon flavour.

4. Once the ground beef has been browned, toss in your aromatic trio – the carrots, celery and onions. Let these sweat until they’ve softened up and the onions are completely translucent. Add your cayenne pepper and season with salt and pepper.

5. Toss in all of your beef stock. If you think there is not enough liquid, you can always add some hot water. It should be sufficiently soupy. I know that’s vague, but how else do you describe it? Let this simmer for at least 20 minutes. The longer, the better.

6. When you feel all the flavours have melded together as they should, toss in your cream and stir. Next, in a separate container (preferably something with a tight fitting lid) put your flour and about twice as much water. Mix or shake this up vigorously to create an even mixture, then pour this into the soup to thicken it up. If you just put flour directly into the soup, the flour will clump up and the soup will not look very appetizing, with white flour chunks floating everywhere. I learned this the hard way a few years ago.

7. Bring everything back to a boil until the soup is sufficiently thickened. You can always add more cream if you like it creamier, more flour (pre-mixed in water, of course) if you like it thicker, or more water/beef stock if you like it thinner.

8. CHEESE! Shred it, and add it. All of it. I used that whole block pictured with the rest of the ingredients. There is never too much cheese in this recipe. I recommend taking it off the heat, and adding the cheese at the last moment. The soup should be sufficiently hot to melt the cheese readily, but not boiling. That leads to some wacky textures.

9. Plate it, top it with a dollop of sour cream. Don’t forget those bacon pieces that we saved right from the beginning ; throw those on top as well – way better than crackers!