“Isn’t it funny how we all remember Vermont?” Said Nana into the land line phone in her nursing home apartment.
I’d called her to tell her that her famous Limpa Bread recipe and the guidance she’d given me over the phone the day before had lead to the most perfect batch yet. So perfect that two entire loaves of the crusty, soft, brown goodness seemed to have already disappeared from our countertop. Mysterious, I know.
Nana was pleased. “Mmmm.” She said, imagining she could taste it too. “It’s the best warm, with butter…” she specified trailing off in thought into the fantasy of Limpa deliciousness. And then it occurred to me. That’s where this came from. This utter obsession with achieving maximum deliciousness, the utmost joy from watching someone happily devour the food you made. I got that from Nana.
“Oh no, I never bothered with any recipes at the restrunt.” She answered after I inquired about the menu items at her and my late-grandfather’s Vermont eatery.
“How did you make everything?” I was blown away. The woman owned, managed and cooked, from scratch with apparently no guidance, everything on the menu at “Bischoff’s Restaurant.” In the 1940s and 50s, hungry skiers and locals alike piled into cozy wooden benches to enjoy her cooking.
“I just made it and tasted as I went along.” She said matter-of-factly. “Have you ever made my split pea soup? I wrote it down for you somewhere.” I will get that recipe as soon as possible. But until then, this Vermont Cheddar soup will have to do. And it does.
Vermont Cheddar and Leek Soup
- 4 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), finely chopped
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
- 3 celery ribs, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 California bay leaf
- 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 lb extra-sharp Vermont Cheddar, grated
- 4 slices applewood smoked bacon slices
In a large heavy pot or dutch oven, melt the butter. Add the leeks, carrots, celery, garlic, and bay leaf and cook over medium heat, stirring often for about 6 minutes. Be sure to not burn the garlic. When the vegetables begin to soften, reduce heat to medium low and sprinkle flour over vegetables. Remove the bay leaf and let the vegetables cook, stirring often for 3 minutes. Add milk and broth in a stream while whisking. Let the soup simmer, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Stir in Worcestershire sauce and mustard. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer soup to a blender and purée until very smooth. Pour the soup back into the pot and reheat over medium heat.
Meanwhile, cook the bacon to desired crispness.
Add cheese the grated cheese to the soup, one cup at at time. Stir until the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.
Crumble the bacon and serve a top the soup.