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Wisconsin beer cheese soup for the Sweet 16

Is your NCAA tournament bracket totally busted? Hey, join the club. I mean, who had Wisconsin upsetting No. 1 overall seed Villanova and my alma mater Duke losing to South Carolina (ugh), not to mention Louisville bowing out to Michigan? With the Sweet 16 starting on Thursday, it’s time for a clean slate and time to embrace these surprise teams. In that vein, we decided to pass along none other than a Wisconsin beer and cheddar soup recipe this week to liven up our NCAA parties and tailgates. For help, we went straight to the source, www.wisconsincheeseman.com. This recipe serves four to six, so better go ahead and double it at least!

Ingredients

½ stick (¼ cup) butter

1 large yellow onion, chopped (2 cups)

2 celery stalks, cut into ¼-inch dice (1 cup)

2 medium carrots, cut into ¼-inch dice (1 cup)

2 tsp. minced garlic

1 bay leaf

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1¾ cups chicken broth

1 (12 fl. oz.) bottle beer

2 cups half-and-half

1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. dry mustard

1 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

12 oz. sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded (3 cups)

Freshly popped popcorn

Directions

Melt butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, celery, carrot, garlic and bay leaf; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and sprinkle flour over vegetables; cook another 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add broth, beer and half-and-half gradually, stirring constantly; simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Add Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt and cayenne.

Remove bay leaf; purée soup with an immersion blender until fairly smooth (this step is not necessary, but gives a more appealing appearance and texture).

Add cheese gradually, stirring constantly, and cook another 3 or 4 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Serve immediately, garnished with popcorn.

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