Fans of Panera soup may recognize this soup. Every other year or so, around the fall season/Chrismas time, Panera unleashes what is easily their best soup ever. You heard me right. EVER. Ask around. Ask the people I spent 6 months working with, enslaved inside the Christmas Around The Mall store, where it was ALWAYS Christmas. Even well into the middle of January, there we were wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.
And if you think the bargain hunting BEFORE Christmas was bad, you never saw the people wondering if the 5 dollar ornament that was already 75% off was going to drop even further in price.
Although, to be fair, some of my best memories come from that store, and it’s also where Katie and I ultimately ended up becoming a couple. Even if it was much to the chagrin of the other employees.
But Panera’s Fiesta Con Queso soup was our addiction. We were there every day it was offered, sometimes buying 2 or 3 extra bowls to have at home during the week. It was like heroin for cheese junkies. The next winter, they didn’t release the seasonal soup and I made it my goal to find a suitable recipe replacement. Searching around the internet, I finally found a recipe that comes pretty damn close to the original, if not slightly spicier.
This dish may be high in vitamins, but be forewarned; it’s all butter and cheese. This is your daily saturated fat. It may be your weekly saturated fat. But that’s what winter soups are for right?
Fiesta con Queso
8-10 servings/5 quarts
1/8-1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 cup onions, diced
1/2 cup carrots, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3-1/2 cup diced roasted Anaheim chilies (I use 1 medium sized pepper)
4 vegetarian vegetable bouillon cubes (extra lg. cubes)
4 cups hot water
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
4 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 lb sliced good quality American cheese
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/4-1/3 cup roasted red peppers, julienne then roughly chop
1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
1/4 cup hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- Over medium heat melt butter or margarine in a 6 quart stock pot, add onions carrot and celery and saute until onions are transparent and carrots have softened, add garlic toward the end and allow to soften (about 2 minutes), remove from heat.
- In a blender combine sauted onions, carrots, celery and garlic with roasted anaheim chili, 4 cubes of bouillon and 4 cups of hot water– puree.
- Return vegetable puree to stock pot and place over medium heat, add both packages of cream cheese stirring until completely blended with vegetable puree.
- In seperate bowl blend 4 tablespoons of flour with 1/2 cup of the warm cream cheese and vegetable puree mixture to get out lumps then stir in 1/2 cup boiling water, combine with contents of stock pot.
- While stirring the pot bring contents to a boil.
- Allow contents to boil while stirring for about 2 minutes then simmer.
- Add the 1/2 lb of American Cheese a couple of slices at a time until melted.
- Once cheese is melted incorporate the can of tomoatos (with juice), roasted red pepper, corn, hot sauce, cayenne pepper and cumin.
- Allow to simmer for at least 1 hour stirring occassionally to prevent burning.
- Serve and enjoy!