3 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 to 4 tablespoons flour
5 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 1/2 cups heavy cream or half-and-half
1/4 cup dry white wine (see cook's note)
1 1/2 cups grated Gruyere or white cheddar cheese (see cook's note)
Freshly ground pepper, preferably white
Cook's note: White vermouth and Comte cheese were used in the video demonstration. Gruyere adds a bit more of a wine flavor, where cheddar takes center stage. Yellow cheddar may be used, but the color changes and is less visually pleasing.
Heat the butter in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, 3-4 minutes, add garlic, and cook briefly. Stir in the flour and stir on the heat a couple of minutes. Stir in the stock and half-and-half, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer. Add cayenne pepper judiciously to taste, the wine and the grated cheese. Taste and add salt and ground pepper. This can be prepared one to two days ahead, cooled, refrigerated and covered until needed. When ready to serve, ladle hot soup into 6 bowls.
--Bacon and cheese soup: 6 slices of cooked and crumbled bacon and a few tablespoons of chopped green onions or chives divided into each bowl at serving time make a totally different soup.
--Cheese and spinach soup: 5 ounces of baby spinach, slivered and added to the bowls before adding the soup, gives the soup more dimension as well as adding a vegetable.
--Cheese and broccoli soup: Chop half of a broccoli stalk, both flower and stem, finely. Add to soup for the last few minutes or upon reheating.