Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

So I hear that Panera Bread has the most scrumptious Broccoli Cheddar Soup ever, but I've never actually tried it myself. The idea of it sounded too good to pass up, so I scoured through a number of knock off and other recipes on the web and decided to give it a go. Here's my version which I unfortunately have nothing to compare with. Nonetheless, it turned out quite delicious and hearty. I have an idea on how to tweak it to the next level, which I'll explain below.*

1/2 stick butter
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 bay leaves (fresh if you can get it)
2 large or 3 medium carrots, peeled & chopped
1 quart (4 cups) half and half
4 cups low sodium chicken stock
2 cups water
1/4 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. turmeric
Pinch of nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

8 cups broccoli florets (about 20 oz.) - cut into bite-sized pieces
5 cups grated Cheddar cheese (half sharp & half mild is a good combo)
1 tbsp. stone ground mustard

*The Tweak Factor: 1/4 cup of flour

1. Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat and add the chopped onion & garlic. Saute 4-5 minutes until softened. 

2. Add the chopped carrots and bay leaves and toss for 15-20 seconds. And here's where the tweak factor factors in - sprinkle 1/4 cup of flour over the veggies and stir for 1-2 minutes until incorporated. I didn't actually do this in my original recipe, but will try this next time to see if the roux creates an even creamier consistency. 

3. Add the half & half, chicken stock, water, paprika, garlic powder, cayenne, turmeric, nutmeg, salt & pepper. Bring to a boil, then add the broccoli florets. Bring back up to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the veggies are tender. 

4. Remove the bay leaves from the soup, then blend the soup briefly with an immersion blender (or pour into an actual blender), leaving a few chunks of the broccoli for texture. If you prefer a totally creamy, non-chunky soup, then by all means just blend that sucker to kingdom come!  

5. While the soup is still hot, stir in the shredded cheese and 1 tbsp. of stone ground mustard.  Taste and re-season with salt & pepper as needed. 

6. Ladle into bowls and serve piping hot. Or, you can serve them in bread bowls a la Panera style!

Chopped carrots, garlic and onion. 

Garlic powder, paprika, black pepper, half and half, stone ground mustard, cayenne, turmeric, and nutmeg. 

Saute the onions and garlic in melted butter. 

Add the carrots and bay leaves. At this point, you can stir in 1/4 cup of flour to make a roux to give the soup a silkier, creamier texture. Haven't tried this yet so will update this post when I do with the results. 

Add the chicken stock, water, half and half, and remaining spices.  

Bring to a boil and add the broccoli florets. Bring back up to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until the veggies are tender. 

Blend the soup with an immersion blender (or blend in batches in an actual blender - be careful when doing this with hot liquids!). I like my soup with a bit of texture, so leave some of the florets intact, but feel free to blend it smooth perfection if that's your preference. 

Stir in the shredded cheese and stone ground mustard. Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed. 

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