Wisconsin Divinity: Cheese Soup

Oct 20th, 2016 | By | Category: blog, cook something, fall, soups and salads, winter
A big pot of homemade cheese soup for a cold day...week...month. It's a lot of soup.

A big pot of homemade cheese soup for a cold day…week…month. It’s a lot of soup.

Wisconsin Divinity (Steve’s Cheese Soup)
Recipe by Steve Piekarski

My brother-in-law Steve Piekarski is a good home cook. He and my sister Toni both enjoy food that is hearty and unfussy. In that vein, they’re not opposed to using convenience foods in their cooking, such as canned broths, pre-cut vegetables, or pasteurized prepared cheese products.

Although it’s just the two of them these days, they usually make enough of any recipe to feed an army. Such is the case with Wisconsin Divinity, or as our family calls it: Steve’s Cheese Soup.

The recipe as written makes more of the cheesy elixir than you could hope to eat in a month of Sundays–unless you had a big crowd tohelp. This is the amount of cheese soup Steve made  last fall when he and my sister visited me in Texas from Illinois. I’m glad I invited friends over that night to enjoy his culinary creation, otherwise I would have been eating cheese soup for—or with—every meal for months, myself.

As it turned out, I only ended up eating it for a couple of weeks once Steve and Toni returned home.

Unless you are feeding a crowd, I recommend that you adjust downward the amounts of all ingredients called for in this recipe to suite your taste. You’ll end up with a manageable number of satisfying bowlfuls of hot, creamy comfort to serve your family and friends.

Ingredients
(Read cook’s notes below)

4 thirty-two ounce cans chicken stock
1 1/2 cups diced carrots
1 1/2 cups diced celery
1 small onion diced (optional)
1 1/2 pounds cooked ham, small dice
1 quart heavy cream
2 thirty-two ounce boxes of Original Velveeta Cheese cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 sixteen ounce box of corn starch for thickening
1 cup chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)

Directions

Pour one 32 ounce can of chicken stock into a 16 quart pot; add the diced vegetables and ham and simmer on medium until the vegetables are tender, about 10-12 minutes.

Once the vegetables are tender—which means they offer no resistance when you bite into them—add the remaining stock and a can of water to the pot; turn the heat to medium-high, and allow the contents to reach a gentle boil. This means just a few bubbles are breaking the surface of the soup, but go away momentarily when you stir the pot. Adjust the heat as necessary.

When the stock and vegetables reach a gentle boil increase the heat slightly and—using a whisk—begin to slowly add the Velveeta Cheese cubes into the pot, stirring constantly to help prevent the bottom of the pot from scorching.

Once the Velveeta has melted, add the quart of cream and bring back to heat, stirring constantly.

Fill a quart jar that has a lid with cold water; add half the cornstarch and put the lid back on and tighten. Now shake vigorously until the water and starch are fully blended and free of lumps.

When the contents of the pot are back to temperature add half of the cornstarch mixture and whisk. Add more of the cornstarch mixture as needed—you may need to make more—until the soup reaches a consistency you like. Steve says he likes his soup the consistency of a slightly thick pancake batter.

Keep stirring; the soup will reach a slightly more vigorous boil—meaning more bubbles are breaking the surface of the soup—boil for five to 10 more minutes. After which time, remove from the heat and allow the soup to sit for 10 minutes before serving. It will continue to thicken as it sits.

To Serve: Ladle into deep bowls and garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve with warm crusty bread and a green salad with a vinaigrette dressing (the vinaigrette will help cut some of the richness of the soup). This is a great meal when the weather gets cold.

COOKS NOTES: Use a small dice on the vegetables. Steve says you can also cut down on prep time by purchasing pre-cut vegetables—like celery and carrot sticks—and then dicing those to size. If you have a ham bone available, Steve recommends adding it to the stock, vegetables and diced ham and letting it simmer for up to two hours before removing it and stirring in the cheese, cream and cornstarch. He says it creates an added layer of flavor that is worth the extra time. And if there are leftovers, they are versatile. You can mix salsa into remaining soup and have a great dip for chips, pour it over nachos, or add in some crumbled crispy bacon and use over eggs or baked potatoes. You’re only limited by your imagination.

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