The holiday entertaining season inevitably means cheese boards. I spread of nice cheese and crackers, maybe a few nuts or fruit, has always been a go to for parties, but in the last few years the elaborate cheese and charcuterie board trend has really exploded. And I am all for it. I love cheese, and really there is no easier way to impress guests than by serving a beautifully arranged selection of cheeses. And all it takes is a trip to the store and a little time. There are a ton of guides online to building a great cheese board (and you can scroll through my Instagram for a some of my favorite ideas). The cheese doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive and with this trend at full tilt, it is amazing the variety of really good cheese you can get at even a standard grocery store. But sometimes, when you make these large, impressive displays, you have some cheese leftover. Now, I could eat a cheese plate for dinner for the rest of the week, but if you’d like to do something a little different, turn to this creamy soup.
Technically, this may not qualify as “chowder” but the name is just too good to pass up. What I give here is a simple template. Obviously, the end result is going to depend completely on the type of cheese you use, so I don’t add much else from the start. I like a combination of a good semisoft cheese that melts smoothly, like cheddar, gouda or Havarti. Add to that a crème cheese like brie or camembert, a little tangy blue cheese and a smidge of goat cheese. But go with what you’ve got. Grate, crumble or chop your cheese into small easily meltable pieces. Don’t stir the cheese into boiling soup or it will separate. If you have hard cheeses like parmesan or pecorino, use those to sprinkle on top rather than in the soup, they don’t melt as well. I use a frozen bag of vegetable mirepoix, which is chopped onion, carrot and celery. If I have leftover cheese, I probably have a lot of cleaning up to do already and this makes it simple. You can also finely dice a small onion, a carrot and a celery stick (or some from left over from a crudite tray if you made one). Lightly salt the vegetables to help soften, but don’t add too much from the start – the cheese will affect the end result. If you garnished your board with some fresh herbs, feel free to chop them and add them to the soup if they complement the flavor.
Use up the rest of those cheeseboard elements to garnish this soup. Make croutons from baguette or focaccia pieces, top with some chopped nuts or dried fruit. Crisp some salami or prosciutto in a frying pan and use that. The possibilities are endless.
Cheese Board Chowder
10 ounces cheese (see above)
2 Tablespoons butter
1 ( 12-ounce) bag frozen vegetable mirepoix (see above)
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt and pepper
- Choose 10 ounces of different cheeses – try to include on good melter like a cheddar, gouda or fontina – and grate or crumble into small pieces.
- Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, then add the vegetables, sprinkle with salt and stir. Cook until the onions are glassy and the carrots and celery soft, about 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Sprinkle over the flour and stir well. The vegetables will clump up, but keep cooking and stirring for 2 minutes or so to cook off the floury flavor. Pour in the chicken broth and milk and stir well. Heat over medium to a low boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and stir in the grated cheeses, stirring until they are melted and smooth. I like to use an immersion blender here to smooth out any chunky vegetable pieces and combine all the cheese well, but that is up to you. Season with salted and pepper and continue cooking until heated through.
- Serve topped with any garnishes from your cheese board.