Saying so might make some of you want to stone me, but I’m just the teensiest bit jealous of all of you who are facing winter weather. Don’t get me wrong; I wouldn’t trade these 80º days for snowfall accumulation that can be measured in feet. But I do long for a chilly night every once in awhile. There is certain comfort in cozying up with a steamy bowl of soup and then reading in front of the fireplace–especially when that soup is as good as the recipe I’m sharing today.
This is my favorite broccoli cheddar soup. I love it because it’s hearty and filling without being too thick. I’ve made the mistake of ordering the broccoli cheddar soup at Panera only to be disappointed by its somewhat gelatinous texture and the slightly pasty taste of whatever thickening agent they use. Yii-ick. This recipe is far superior to that one. It’s definitely creamy, but there is nothing gelatinous about it. Also, it gets some body from the addition of diced potato–always a winning choice in my book. As with every soup I make, this one uses homemade chicken stock. If you’ve yet to try that for yourself, please do yourself the favor of making some before spring comes. I promise that you’ll taste an incredible difference in not only your soups, but sauces and gravies that you use homemade stock in, too. Of course, you are more than welcome to use the store-bought stuff if that’s what you’ve got on hand.
2 broccoli crowns, rinsed and chopped, plus more for garnishing if desired
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese, plus more for garnishing if desired
crumbled bacon for garnish, if desired
In a Dutch oven, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes, until it begins to be translucent. Add the potatoes and cook for an additional five minutes. When the potatoes are tender, but not thoroughly cooked, add the carrots and celery and stir well. Continue to sauté the mixture until both the potatoes and carrots are fork tender and the onions are translucent.
Pour the chicken stock into the Dutch oven and bring it to a boil. Immediately reduce heat and cover, allowing the mixture to simmer for about twenty minutes.
Add broccoli and replace cover, allowing the broccoli to steam for five minutes. Uncover and remove from heat. With an immersion blender, blend soup until most of the larger broccoli pieces are pureed but the soup still has some chunky vegetables. This step gives the soup a creamy texture. If you prefer a thoroughly pureed soup, go ahead and blend completely. If you do not have an immersion blender, you can alternatively use a traditional blender for this step.
In a medium saucepan, melt remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. Add flour and stir, allowing the mixture to cook until it turns golden brown, about one minute or so. Slowly pour in milk and cream, whisking constantly. Allow the mixture to cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens and coats the back of a rubber spatula. Add grated cheddar cheese and stir until it is melted and combined.
Slowly pour cheese sauce into the Dutch oven and bring soup back to a simmer over medium heat, stirring thoroughly. Allow soup to heat through and then serve immediately. Garnish with additional cheese, broccoli and crumbled bacon, if desired.
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