Beer, Bacon and Cheddar Soup

A naughty but nice soup.

4-5 slices thick cut bacon, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 medium potato; peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice
2 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1½ cups light-colored beer
1 cup chicken stock
2 cups milk
½ cup whipping cream
1 bay leaf
1 pinch cayenne pepper
2 tablespoon dry sherry
3 cups shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves; chopped
1 tablespoon fresh chives; chopped
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Fry the bacon in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crisp, 5 to 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.

Add the onion to the pot containing the bacon drippings and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the potato, celery, and garlic and cook about 2-3 minutes and then add the flour and cook, for about 2 minutes.

Gradually whisk in the beer, chicken stock, and milk. Add the bay leaf and increase the heat to medium-high. Bring to a simmer then reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the vegetables soften, about 3 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the cayenne and sherry and allow to cool slightly, about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the cheese, thyme and chives until the cheese melts. Stir in the fried bacon and whipping cream, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

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