Cook the kielbasa in the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot over high heat until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the onions, salt, pepper, and bay leaves and cook, stirring, until the onions are slightly caramelized, 12 to 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the stock and the beer. Add the thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Add the cheese a little at a time, stirring until nearly completely melted after each addition. Remove from the heat, taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Garnish each serving of the soup with a handful of the popcorn and minced fresh chives.
For the popcorn: In a large, partially covered saucepan heat olive oil and 1 piece of popping corn until hot enough to make the corn pop. Add the remaining popping corn and cook partially covered, shaking, until all corn is popped. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients until evenly coated.
Combine all ingredients thoroughly.
Yield: 2/3 cup
Recipe from “New New Orleans Cooking”, by Emeril Lagasse and Jessie Tirsch, published by William and Morrow, 1993.