Of the hundreds of ways we like to eat broccoli, I’m guessing broccoli with cheese sauce tops most people’s lists. But it’s broccoli-cheese soup that takes the proverbial cake, at least in my book. It’s got lots of fresh broccoli, plenty of tummy-filling cheese, and that comforting homey warmth of a cold night by a hot fire.
It all started when I saw broccoli on sale for 59 cents a pound at my local fruit market, I sorted through the pile for the best specimens, shoved them in a bag, thanked the cashier and skipped out the door—overjoyed at having purchased the magic ingredient I didn’t even know I was looking for. My recent batch of homemade chicken stock was looking for a partner, and I knew right away that the two would be a match made in heaven. It was time for some serious soup, and I wasn’t even going to glance at a recipe.
Since I had planned on making soup, I already had all the supplies with me when I got snowed into my house during the blizzard of the century last week. What’s a girl to do when she’s stuck all alone in her house during Chicago’s craziest blizzard in years? Well, drink beer, of course. And catch up on old Netflix movies that have been sitting under the TV for weeks. Or take hot baths and eat too much ice cream (or both). Drink more beer. And last, but certainly not least, make soup. Lots of it. Enough to feed way more people (6 to 8 ) than there are in your house (1), because you’re going to be sharing it with friends for the rest of the week.
Soups definitely rank up there on my list of favorite things to make, and it’s a great starting point for those folks who want to start making up their own recipes. (I’m sure there are plenty of you out there who pretend to read the recipe and then ignore it completely. I’m looking at you, Mom. But to each their own, and that’s why cooking is so great.) Many vegetable-based soups start the same way—sweat prepared veggies in oil or butter; add roux or flour if using; stir in liquid and seasonings; bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer; simmer until flavors meld and blend and vegetables are soft but not mushy; and then puree, add cream and serve, or serve as it, chunky and delicious.
So now that you know the secret, go ahead and make up your own broccoli-cheese soup. Just kidding … I wouldn’t leave you without one of my trusty recipes, now would I? As usual, play with this recipe to make it your own. Like the snow-covered world outside my door, soup is a blank canvas just waiting to be painted into something truly special.
This soup is perfect for a cold winter’s night. For extra thickening power, add a diced potato to the pot when you add the broccoli florets. Serves 6 to 8. Click here to download a copy of this recipe.
4 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 pounds fresh broccoli
2 sweet onions, diced
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
3 heaping Tbs. flour
6-8 c. chicken stock, preferably homemade
8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Heavy cream, if desired
Sour cream, for garnish
Julienne of red pepper, for garnish
Prep broccoli. Separate the stalk from the florets. Chop the stalks into small dice and separate the florets into 1-inch pieces.
Sauté veggies. In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter. Add the broccoli stems, sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper. Sauté until the onion is translucent, and then add the garlic. Sauté 1 minute more. Add the florets to the pot and sauté until they are also coated with butter.
Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables, and stir until they are all well coated. Sauté 1 minute more, and then add enough hot stock to the pot to cover the veggies. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat and let the soup simmer until the florets are tender.
Puree and add cheese. Remove the soup from the heat and let cool for several minutes before pureeing it with a stick blender. Season lightly with salt and pepper. If the soup is a bit too thin, return it the stovetop to simmer for a few more minutes; however, it will thicken it a bit once the cheese is added. Add a splash of cream to the soup, if desired. Then add the shredded cheese to the soup in several small batches, stirring each addition well. Season the soup to taste with additional salt and black pepper. Serve warm garnished with sour cream and julienned red pepper if desired.