Is the name of this recipe confusing? It’s supposed to be. This week, we were faced with an interesting challenge: make a super meaty fall soup and make it vegetarian. To be honest, we really brought the challenge upon ourselves.

We wanted to make soup “our way” (bacon, booze) for a dinner party while still being able to feed some vegetarian guests. Think of it as a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure soup. The trick is to start with a really rich base, made possible by slow-simmering onions, leeks and shallots in oil and beer. (For the beer, we used a Belgian Tripel, but you can really use just about anything you’d like.) Then, add the meat elements as garnishes at the end. While bacon and crab add a lot to this creamy soup, they’re not exactly necessary.

And whether you add the meat at the end (which we highly recommend) this fall soup might even make a nice addition to your Thanksgiving lineup, especially if you are trying to please carnivores and herbivores alike. Of course, if you’re hosting vegan teetotallers, just keep looking; there are some nice butternut squash soup recipes out there.

beer

Vegetarian Bacon and Beer Soup
¼ cup canola oil
2 onions, chopped
2 leeks, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
12 ounces beer
¼ cup butter (½ stick)
¼ cup flour
3 cups cream
3 cups whole milk
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 thick-cut slices of bacon

Garnish suggestions:
Fried onions
Cooked sweet corn kernels
Cooked crab covered in citrus juice and spices
Variety of minced herbs

onions

Warm the oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the onions, leeks, and shallots and cook until they’re warm and become transparent. Lower the temperature, add the beer, and allow the mixture to simmer for about 30 minutes. You want the onions to become tender, but not caramelized.

Add the butter and let it melt. Add the flour and mix. Allow to cook for about 3 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the cream and the milk and raise the heat on the burner. Allow the soup to come to a simmer. Season generously with salt and pepper to taste. At this point the soup can come to room temperature, then you can refrigerate it and rewarm it right before serving — or you can prepare the garnishes and serve immediately.

Vegetarian? Stop and serve. Carnivore? Keep Reading.

Cut the bacon into lardons and cook in a frying pan until crispy. Separate the bacon from the bacon fat and reserve both.

Divide the soup among the bowls. Add the bacon and other garnishes on top. Drizzle with bacon fat. Serve with good bread and butter and more of the beer you used in the soup.