For the soup:
2 carrots, peeled, fine dice
1 parsnip, peeled, fine dice
3 ribs celery, with leafy tops, fine dice
1 large white onion, fine dice
4 garlic cloves, chopped
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons paprika, 2/3 scant palmful
2 teaspoons dried mustard, such as Frank's red hot
1 bottle beer, preferably a larger
3 cups chicken stock
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 quart whole milk
Two 12-ounce packages shredded sharp cheddar cheese, yellow or white (5 cups total)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Finely chopped chives
Freshly popped popcorn with paprika and powdered white or yellow cheddar powder*, or store-bought
For the soup, add chopped carrots, parsnips, celery, onion and garlic to food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
Place a large deep skillet or medium soup pot on stove over medium-high heat. Add vegetable mixture and cook to soften, 2 minutes. Add salt, pepper, paprika, mustard, hot sauce and beer, bring to boil and reduce a minute, then add stock and bring to boil. Simmer at low rolling boil 20-25 minutes to reduce by half.
Meanwhile, heat a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium to medium-high heat, add butter and melt. When foam subsides, whisk in flour, then add milk while whisking and allow base to thicken a bit to coat spoon. Season mildly with salt. Add cheese a few handfuls at a time, stirring with wooden spoon, until cheese is incorporated. Blend mixture with an immersion blender to create a velvety texture (this step is optional). Add Worcestershire and Dijon and stir to combine.
Slowly stir the reduced vegetable mixture into cheese mixture. Mix until smooth
To serve, top with chives and popcorn.
*For popcorn topping (if making), heat 2 tablespoons oil in pan with lid over medium-high heat, add ½ cup popcorn kernels, and pop, covered, shaking the pan, then remove from heat and add an even sprinkle, about 1½ teaspoons paprika and 2 tablespoons powdered cheese (available online from several spice vendors in white and yellow cheddar). Or buy a sack of Smartfood!