It’s still 90° in Billings, but what can I say? It’s close enough to September and blessed cool weather that I got very hungry for some broccoli cheese soup. My husband, Richard, loves soup of any kind. He’s feeling a little under the weather, and I had a boatload of fresh broccoli and cheddar cheese in the fridge, so what the heck? The air conditioner is on, right? (Sorry my pic is just horrible. I think I inadvertently did something to the auto focus – yikes!)
This is such an easy recipe that it qualifies as a “Quick Dinner.” Seriously, 30 minutes at the most from begin to end. My rule is to always keep fresh broccoli or frozen broccoli on hand. And I always have a variety of hard cheese in the fridge and chicken stock in the pantry. Although, for this batch, I had a half-gallon of homemade stock, so that’s what I used. I’m eager to make homemade stock out of already roasted chickens from Costco, Sam’s or the multitude of deli counters where they are now commonly found. I think the richness of the roasted chicken would lend itself well to homemade stock, and they’re cheap – but I digress – that’s ready for another episode . . .
This soup recipe will serve four. The basic recipe calls for sharp cheddar (I used white), and Swiss. But you could substitute other cheeses you have on hand, like cream cheese, Velveeta or another mild cheddar, or maybe a smoked gouda or oaxaca – any cheese that melts well and might offer a little different flavor. How about pepper jack served with cornbread?
A word about shredded cheese: I regularly follow another food blogger Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. In one of her posts, she suggested that we shred our own cheese, rather than buying the already shredded variety at the supermarket. Mel’s husband works in the cheese industry, and commented that he believes the cheese melts better. After I’ve done pizzas, enchiladas, lasagnas, etc., I tend to agree. There is always better melting. I do, however, buy store sliced provolone – it melts just great. Enter my BFF kitchen tool, my Cuisinart – such an easy job of shredding a number of hard cheeses in seconds, pop them into a ziploc bag or plastic container, into the fridge and you’ll have plenty of cheese for this and other lovely, cheesy recipes.
So, let’s begin, shall we?
I take 3 cups of fresh broccoli, trim off the stems, and quarter larger pieces of the florets, or halve medium ones, or leave little ones whole. You can include stalks, as long as they’re cut into bite sized pieces. Place the florets into a 4-cup measure. If you’re a little over or a little short, no big deal – that’s the beauty of making a soup.
Then I put about a tablespoon or two of water into the measure, cover the measuring cup in plastic wrap, and nuke it in the microwave for 1 minute 45 seconds. Take it out, don’t remove the plastic wrap until you’re ready to add the vegetable to the soup. It will continue to cook for a few minutes, no problem. If you’re using frozen broccoli, the already cut up kind of bag, microwave it according to the directions, but I’d tend to under nuke it, because it’s best just a little undercooked, crunchy and green. The frozen stuff will warm and cook more in the soup.
With all our ingredients assembled, we begin to cook. Ok, almost all the ingredients. I forgot to add the chicken stock to the milk in the measure on the right, but just imagine there’s another 2 cups of chicken stock in that cup to make 4 cups total. Put the milk/stock mixture in the microwave for a couple of minutes, just to take the chill off.
You can use any heavy bottomed 5-quart pot you wish – your Ducth Oven, a smart and popular Les Creuset dutch oven, or a Calphalon of the same size. (I got mine at TJ Maxx for a ridiculously, reasonable price.)
In the pot over medium heat, add 4 Tablespoons of butter or olive oil or half of each. When the fat comes to temperature, add 1/2 onion, diced. Saute briefly until the onion is soft, but not quite brown, 3-5 minutes.
Add 1/3 cup of all purpose flour mixed with just a touch of cayenne pepper to the soup pot, and stir until the flour is thoroughly incorporated. Continue to stir until the butter and flour begin to slightly bubble at the bottom of the pot, 1-2 minutes. Begin to add the warmed milk/stock mixture slowly, stirring continually until the flour, butter, and stock have become one lovely slurry. The slurry will warm and begin to thicken, but not too thick – about 5-6 minutes.
Remove the soup pot from the heat, and begin to add the cheese 1/2 cup at a time. Stir the cheese and into the soup base after each cheese addition. Don’t add the next 1/2 cup of cheese until the first is completely melted and incorporated.
Once all the cheese is added, throw in the nuked broccoli, liquid and all. Return to low heat and gently warm. Add 1/2 teaspoonful of salt and black pepper. Heat through and serve. For those, especially picky eaters, you might consider putting 1/2 of the soup through a blender to make it smoother and return it to the pot to heat, or use an immersion blender. I had some leftover mashed potatoes in the fridge, so I added a couple of Tablespoons to the soup as it was warming. The potatoes added some texture.
Serving Suggestions: There are a number of toppings you might consider to include to the finished soup at serving. You might add more shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream, or some beautifully buttered and browned croutons, or even some crumbled crispy bacon. You might omit the toppings or not, and add a warmed loaf of crusty bread and butter. A fresh salad or 1/2 sandwich would also be a tasty addition. I poured the hot soup into a wide-mouthed thermos jug, and off I went to serve a hungry and happy husband. Or you might want to take a thermosful to a fall picnic or tailgate party.
Here’s the recipe:
- 2 cups of milk - whole milk, 2%, skim - whatever you prefer to use
- 2 cups of chicken stock - homemade or reduced sodium canned
- 3 cups of fresh broccoli cut into bite-sized florets, or one bag of frozen broccoli
- ½ medium onion, diced
- 3-4 Tablespoons butter or olive oil, or a combination of both
- ⅓ cup of all-purpose flour mixed with a pinch of cayenne
- 1½ cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese, white or yellow
- ½ cup of shredded Swiss cheese
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt, sea salt or whatever you prefer
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Place the fresh broccoli florets into a microwave proof bowl or measuring cup with 1-2 Tablespoons of water. Cover with plastic wrap, and microwave at full power for 1:45 minutes. Or microwave frozen broccoli according to package directions. Set aside.
- Measure chicken stock and milk into a microwave safe bowl or measure. Heat for 2-3 minutes until slightly warm.
- Heat a 5-quart heavy bottomed pot or Dutch Oven over medium heat.
- Add the butter, olive oil, or a combination of both to total 4 Tablespoons. Once the oil has melted and begins to bubble, add the chopped onion, and saute until the onion is translucent, but not browned. 1-3 minutes
- Add the flour/cayenne mix. Stir the flour into the butter and allow to cook until the roux begins to bubble, but not brown.
- As you are stirring with a whisk or wooden spoon, slowly add the warmed milk/chicken stock mixture. Continue to stir until all the flour, butter and onion are fully incorporated.
- Once the soup base begins to thicken, remove from heat. Begin to add the shredded cheeses ½ cup at a time, stirring after each addition, until all the cheese is thoroughly incorporated.
- Return the pot to low-medium heat. Add the cooked broccoli with all the liquid.
- Warm the soup through and serve.
Recipe slightly adapted from www.melskitchencafe.com