Beer soups are popular in Germany and eastern France. This great one has an impossible depth of flavor for such a short cooking time.
For the croutons:
2 cups 1-inch bread cubes (see Note)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
For the soup:
1 quart chicken stock
1 cup very thinly sliced parsnip rounds
1 cup very thinly sliced carrot rounds
1 teaspoon finely minced fresh thyme leaves
2 ounces smoky slab bacon, cut into fat matchsticks
2 heaping tablespoons finely minced shallots
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup wheat beer (a light beer may be substituted)
finely minced fresh parsley for garnish
1. To make the croutons: Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Toss the bread cubes in a bowl with the melted butter. Add the grated cheese, pressing with your hands to make the cheese adhere to the bread cubes. Spread cubes out on a cookie sheet, place in oven, and cook, turning once, for 45 to 60 minutes, or until the cubes are golden brown and completely crisp. Spread out and let cool, uncovered, at room temperature.
2. To make the soup: Place the chicken stock in a saucepan over high heat. Add the cloves, the parsnips, the carrots, and the thyme leaves. Boil for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft and the stock is reduced.
3. While the vegetables are boiling, place the matchsticks of bacon in a large, heavy saucepan over moderate heat. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the shallots, stir well, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the flour, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the boiling stock all at once, stir well with a whisk, and bring to a boil.
4. Just before serving, whisk in the beer, preserving the foam that forms on top. Taste for seasoning. Divide the soup among 4 bowls, top each bowl with one fourth of the croutons, and sprinkle all with the minced parsley. Serve immediately.
Note: The best bread to use for these croutons is a crusty country loaf or a baguette, but one that’s light and airy on the inside. Dense breads will make the croutons too heavy. An airy, freshly cooked white bread is a decent substitution.