I’ve been in a funk lately. Maybe it’s the transition from two and half weeks off to a full week at the office. Maybe it’s the uncomfortably low temperatures that January brings. Or maybe it’s the fact that everything I’ve tried to blog in the past week has been unsatisfactory. Who knows? All I know is that 2015 has been off to a weird, cold start and I needed something to snap me out of it. That something came in the form of a luscious, creamy Vermont Cheddar Soup.
I had been wanting to have lunch at Simon Pearce in Quechee, Vermont for a while. Simon Pearce is a glass-blower and potter who opened up shop in Vermont in the early 1980s. The Mill (what they call the Vermont location) has a restaurant attached to it, which is known for locally-sourced and seasonal food. Sooo Vermont, I know. I LOVE IT. Often on our annual summer trip to Stowe, we’d go to Simon Pearce to peruse the beautiful hand-blown glass and watch the glass-blowers do their work. For the past few years, though, my parents and I have re-calibrated our trip home to hit a different area of Vermont in order to go to one of the best farmer’s markets we’ve experienced. (Waitsfield, Vermont – seriously the best farmer’s market.) Plus we’re usually so full from a week of overindulgent eating that stopping for a nice lunch after our seventh breakfast of pancakes, bacon, sausage, granola, and muffins seems a little much.
But guess what, y’all! I went on a ski trip to Killington before Christmas and I made sure to leave a day open just to go eat in Quechee, a mere forty minutes away! A ski trip well done, I’d say.
Their signature dish is the Vermont Cheddar Soup. If that’s not something that appeals to you (those with allergies are excused) then GET OUT OF HERE, ALIEN!!! Who doesn’t want a bowl of cheddar soup?? I went into that restaurant knowing that I was going to get a cup of it, no matter what. Appropriately, it was one of those snowy, dreary days (ya know, one of my favorites) and we sat next to a window looking out at the river that The Mill sits on, eating warm cheddar soup with little bits of bread, called “Rory’s Scones,” to dunk.
So, to ease my fretful funk, I got the recipes for Simon Pearce’s Vermont Cheddar Soup and Rory’s Scones (more like little biscuits, made by an Irish guy named Rory), from this cookbook conveniently owned by my mother, and got to work. It was quite a labor of love for a freezing Monday night, but hey, it was worth it.
The soup would work just as well with a nice loaf of bread, but the scones are easy and fun to make. If anything is going to stop you from making them it would be that they’re a little missy to mix. If you do make them, drop a few into your soup and let them soak up some sharp, cheddar-y goodness and then go to town. It’s still mighty cold here in New York, but that new year funk is melting away with each cheesy bite.
*Author’s Note: Obviously Cabot Vermont cheddar is the way to go. Otherwise you’re not doing VERMONT cheddar soup, or LIFE, right.
Rory’s Irish Scones
Yields: about 54 small scones
4 cups bread flour*, plus extra for rolling
½ teaspoon baking soda, heaping
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar, heaping
2 cups buttermilk
*I didn’t have bread flour, so I used 3 cups all-purpose and 1 cup whole wheat. Using only all-purpose flour would work as well.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly flour a baking sheet, or use a Silpat, and set aside.
- Sift the flour, baking soda, salt, and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and add the buttermilk. Mix together by hand (or spoon – I did both) until thoroughly combined. Be careful not to overwork the dough; it should be light and springy to the touch. It doesn’t have to be smooth, just mixed.
- Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and form into a large rectangle. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into 9×6-inch rectangle (I didn’t read well enough and make mine about 9×13 – still worked!), about ¾ an inch thick.
- Cut the dough into 9 strips about 1 inch wide, then cut each of the strips into six 1-inch squares.
- Arrange the dough squares on the prepared baking sheet in 9 rows of 6 (basically recreating what you had on your work surface), so they are barely touching. As they rise in the oven, they will merge together. Bake until the scones are golden brown, 17 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through the baking time.
- Let the scones cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then remove from the sheet and gently separate them before serving.
Vermont Cheddar Soup
Yields: About 6 cups
Slightly altered from Simon Pearce
½ cup grated carrots
½ cup minced celery
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
½ cup all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock, hot
12 ounces extra-sharp Vermont cheddar cheese, shredded (3 cups)
½ cup of half-and-half
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Chopped fresh parsley, to garnish
Worcestershire sauce, to garnish
- Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil, add the carrots and celery, and cook for 30 seconds. Drain well and set aside.
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan, such as a Le Creuset, over low heat. Add the onion, thyme, and bay leaf. Increase the heat to medium-high heat, and cook until the onion is translucent, 5-8 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to low, add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Turn the heat to medium-high and cook until the roux (the butter and flour mixture) bubbles.
- Add the stock 1 cup at a time, making sure the liquid is at a boil the whole time, and whisk until smooth.
- If desired, use an immersion blender here, taking the bay leaf out first. This step can be skipped if you’d like.
- Add the cheddar cheese to the soup in two batches and stir until the cheese has melted. Add the half-and-half, carrots, and celery. Remove the bay leaf if you haven’t already. Season with salt and pepper.
- Serve garnished with chopped parsley, a drizzle of Worcestershire sauce, and Rory’s scones. Fade into oblivion and enjoy.