For reasons I cannot — for once, I mean, good riddance — articulate, I spent half the summer, the half I was gestating this tiny moppet, with a nonstop craving for broccoli cheddar soup, something I’d never actually eaten before. I think a comment got it started and even though I can no longer find it, I’ll never forgive it. Sure, I had heard of the soup, but it always seemed to be in that category of foods it was better not to investigate. I mean, just consider all of the ways our lives have been ruined by finding how ridiculous brown butter and sea salt flakes are in crispy treats, or what happens when you make saltine crack into an ice cream sandwich, or butter in tomato sauce. I didn’t want to know why a cheddar cheese soup base was an obsession of so many people.
But once it got in my head, no amount of earnest effort could distract me for long. So, I got to Googling and mashed up several well-rated recipes with overlapped ingredients and brought to the table that night something that was basically a rich cheese sauce with a few flecks of broccoli — i.e. almost cruelly delicious but seriously, if I want a cheese sauce, I promise, I will always just make one. (Regardless, we all slurped it up.)
The next time, I used less butter, less cream and more broccoli and worried I was becoming a total bore because it was still to me more rich than it needed to be. (But there were no leftovers again.)
The third time I made it, I finally found a broccoli level that made the soup more green than white and a cream level that tasted rich but not worrisomely so and everyone loved the taste I gave them but I put it in the freezer because we were [drumroll] planning ahead! We were, for once, going to be those people that prioritized the future over the present! We were going to freezer-meal-as-a-verb like pros! We were going to thank our summer selves all fall.
And then the next night we took it out of the freezer and had it for dinner because planning schmanning, this soup was too good to wait to eat. I regret everything! (Time for a do-over.)
Instead of 1 cup half-and-half, you could use 1/2 cup milk + 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1/2 cup heavy cream + 1/2 cup additional stock or broth. I like to use both broccoli florets and stems when I cook, and I find that the stems cook up with the best texture and at the same rate as the florets when I peel them first. I did so here.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped small
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup half-and-half
4 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth (here’s my favorite chicken stock)
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/4 pounds broccoli or 4 cups broccoli florets and stems, chopped small
1 large carrot (about 6 ounces) or 2 slim ones, chopped tiny (1 cup)
8 ounces (about 2 1/2 cups) coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese, plus a pinch extra for garnish
Melt the butter in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook until golden, 3 to 4 minutes, then gradually whisk in the half-and-half until smooth. Add the chicken broth, bay leaf, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
Add the broccoli and carrot to the broth mixture and simmer until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and adjust seasoning if needed, but err on the cautious side with the salt because the cheese will add a bit. Puree the soup to your desired texture — I like mine fairly chunky, just lightly blended — with an immersion blender or in an upright one. Back on the stove, add cheese and whisk until melted, about 1 minute.
Serve in bowls, garnished with a pinch of cheese. We like a hearty slice of grainy toasted bread on the side, for swiping.
First published September 29, 2015 on smittenkitchen.com |
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