one last winter soup
This was going to be a double header post of soup awesomeness detailing my two favorite kinds of soup in the whole wide world: french onion soup, and broccoli cheese soup. Unfortunately, due to a little camera snafu I have lost all proof of the amazingness that was The French Onion Soup, so we will have to say farewell to winter with just the one recipe for the amazingness that was The Broccoli Cheese Soup (and I’ll have to get back to you sometime with the onion soup, hooray for an excuse to make it again!).
Until recently I had never tried making broccoli cheese soup for myself, but I had definitely tasted many unspectacular batches at the hands of others, so I was a little apprehensive about finding a really good recipe that would live up to my expectations. Broccoli cheese soup can easily be too thick or too thin, or overly cheesy or velveeta-y tasting. I like it to be thick but not chunky or gloopy, runny enough to still be soup but not brothy, and with a hefty fresh broccoli taste while simultaneously having the strong taste of good cheddar. Lucky for me, the first recipe I tried proved to be a fabulous one and I don’t think I’ll need to look any further.
I adapted this recipe in a few ways. First, we doubled it, having heard that we would definitely appreciate having some leftovers of this tasty soup (I definitely recommend you do the same). Secondly, I went a little easy on the whole “let’s throw in a cup of cream and some extra butter for good measure” aspect of the original recipe, and I can tell you that especially if you use a good sharp cheddar, you won’t even notice the difference. It was still creamy-cheesy-wonderful but you can really taste that it’s the pureed broccoli bringing a lot of the thickness and not cream and butter and flour. I also omitted the nutmeg because I’m not crazy about using it in savory dishes, switched to dried thyme (because hey, it was winter and all my herbs were dead), and used fresh broccoli instead of frozen (I don’t keep frozen broccoli around because I like the fresh stuff so much better). For me, this made the recipe really weeknight friendly and really simple while still delivering the flavor I was looking for. Before we worked out this recipe I was thinking I needed to use winter chillyness as an excuse to make something so rich and cheesy, but now that I’ve found a recipe I can work with, I think it’s safe to say we’ll be enjoying this soup well into the spring.
Broccoli Cheese Soup
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse via Food Network
Serves 4-6 (we generously served two with seconds and still had plenty to freeze for a rainy day!)
6 T butter
1 large onion, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
Salt and white pepper, to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme, or 1 tsp fresh if you have it
6 T flour
6 cups chicken stock or 1 quart chicken broth plus 2 cups water
1 cup milk (make it cream or half-n-half if you’re up for it, I wanted to keep this as healthy as possible so I went with milk)
2 heads fresh broccoli, chopped into florets
about 2 cups shredded cheese (if you make it a good sharp cheddar, you can get away with a little less)
In a large, heavy bottomed pot, melt butter over medium high heat. Add onions, salt and pepper and cook until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Toss in garlic and thyme and stir until fragrant.
Add flour and stir well for a few minutes to incorporate and cook out any floury taste. Whisk in the chicken stock slowly, and bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes to thicken. Then add broccoli and simmer until soft, 10-15 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat. If you have an immersion blender (kudos to you) you can just blend it up in the pot, or if you’re like me, put it into your blender in 2 batches and let it puree. I stopped mine when it still had a little bit of the broccoli texture but was pretty smooth, but you can decide how pureed you like yours. When you’re done, put it all back in the pot and put back over medium low heat. Add milk and stir in, then add cheese. Keep stirring until soup is heated through and barely simmering, and all cheese is melted. Serve immediately! In the top picture you can see we garnished ours with a little parmesan because put all our cheddar into the soup, but it looks a little prettier with some finely shredded cheddar on top. If you have any leftovers, this soup freezes and reheats really well to give you a second delicious and filling soup dinner with no effort!