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Thursday, February 24, 2011

MIKE and CHARLIE'S CHEESE SOUP

Serving of Mike and Charlie's Cheese Soup
I have searched for over 25 years for the recipe to make this soup.  The long defunct Austin eatery, Mike and Charlie's, served this delicious soup and I've never found one to compare...and I've tried a lot of cheese soups!  I googled and googled and finally found a link to a 1987 cookbook called "Dining with Diane - The Austin Restaurant Cookbook" by Diane Payton Gomez who was a restaurant reviewer for the Austin American-Statesman.  The link had the words Mike and Charlie's in the descriptive text...woo hoo I yelled!  Further digging referenced the recipe for which I searched, could be found in an out-of-print cookbook.  I was ecstatic to hunt this book down and order it used from a bookseller on Amazon.com. 

I worked at a hospital around the corner from this great little neighborhood eatery and ate, on a routine basis, a take-out order of this soup paired with half a chicken salad sandwich.  (That recipe is ALSO in the cookbook so I really scored!)

It was the cat's meow...the bee's knees...whatever saying you want to use that means damn good...well, that's what this soup was.  Don't turn up your nose when you see the "American Cheese" ingredient.  I admit to being surprised... I expected Cheddar...but I'm not judging, 'cause it just tastes so darn good.  I had a little trouble finding a block of American Cheese...but the deli does have it at our local H.E.B. grocery store.  I found a pre-grated bag blend of American Cheese and Cheddar which I decided to use.  It worked fine, and the soup was delicious... but there was a subtle underlying flavor difference compared to my 1980s memories...just not quite the way I remembered it.  I guess I'll try it again with regular American Cheese (not Velveeta) and see if it is "exactly" the way I remember it.  Regardless, this recipe as I made it, even with the subtle difference was really delicious.  Warning...it takes 3 pans to make this...I'm such a dufus I had to draw myself a picture to make sure I had it right as I set up.  Sure enough...3 pans!

Here's the recipe.  I am so glad it wasn't lost to those of us who loved it so dearly.

CHEESE SOUP

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons margarine (yep, it says margarine not butter)
  • 1/2 cup flour (this was too much for my roux...it only took slightly more than 1/4 cup - I actually had to discard the first batch of roux because I pushed the envelope and added the entire 1/2 cup and it was just a dry crumbly mixture...not the more "plaster-like" mixture that makes a good roux)
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper (I think 1/2 teaspoon would have helped)
  • 1/4 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 pound American cheese, grated (used Kraft American & Cheddar shredded cheese mix)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup beer (used Dos Equis Amber - 'cause I AM in The Valley!  I wonder, though, what kind of beer they used...beers all taste so different this can have a big impact on overall taste)

Method:

Make a smooth light brown roux by melting margarine and stirring in the flour until cooked. 

this is with 1/4 cup flour
In another pan, pour half the chicken broth and boil vegetables until tender.


1/4 cup of each veg is not a lot...but just right
Whisk in the grated cheese.  When cheese is completely melted, remove from heat.  Be careful not to burn. 

Heat the other half of the broth and add the cream to it.  Slowly add the broth with the cream to the roux, whisking vigorously.  Add beer and pepper. 

Beer and Pepper added - Don't boil the cream and roux -
 just thoroughly mix - it will thicken the soup perfectly
Add to broth with vegetables, mix and heat thoroughly. 

All whisked together
Makes about 8 servings.

The author notes "Oh, is this ever good!  You can cut the recipe down if you want but this soup goes fast." 

I made a full batch...and I will likely have to share it with someone....maybe ;-)  I do think I'll re-test this recipe with 100% American Cheese as it calls for...that may just be the missing link in my memory of taste!  SCH friends...if you make it, let me know if it is as you remember it...and what kind of beer you use!


Ready to serve - it looks just like I remembered it!

I hope you enjoy this as much as I am!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!StumbleUpon

5 comments:

  1. I think beer does probably make a difference, as well as the cheese. I am wondering about the butter versus margarine thing too! Sometime in the next couple of weeks I will make this and give it a whirl! Thanks for sharing!!! Dana

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  2. Dana,
    I thought about the margarine vs butter thing too...but it was the 70s and margarine was really commonly used so I stuck with it. I think that is why I had trouble with my roux. Let me know how yours turns out (and what kind of beer you use)!
    Debbi

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  3. I stumbled across your post while reminiscing about Mike and Charlies- My parents were partners in this restaurant - I grew up with our kitchen being a constant testing ground for recipes for this restaurant, The Capital Oyster Bar, And Riccos- I was young but am proud of this legacy!
    As a side note my husband and I lived on or next to SPI For 12 years from 1990-2002 our kids and Born and raised them there Another interesting fact- Mike Young who was the "Mike" ( my dad was " Charlie") Mike was from the Valley- it's fun to remember! Thank you for sharing this

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    Replies
    1. What a wonderful comment!!! Thank you for sharing your memories and tidbits of info...isn't life strange? Our big old world is so small, and sometimes, things go "bump" and it just makes me smile. We moved to Laguna Vista in 2008 so my son could go to a small town high school like my husband and I did...it has been wonderful for us. However, I sure miss Austin and the various eating and shopping opportunities! I visit often, though, as my older children and my grandbabies still live in Austin.
      Thanks again for the great memories!
      Debbi

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    2. Mike & Charlie's had the greatest meatballs on the planet. Is there anyone with the recipe? Winston Krause 512-477-6707

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