Saturday, March 9, 2013

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

A part of me thinks I should start off this post by apologizing for the amount of cheese, butter, and milk that is in this soup. But now I'm thinking otherwise.

You know how Panera's broccoli cheddar soup is, more or less, the best broccoli cheddar soup out there? Well, when a severe craving set in for broccoli cheddar soup yesterday, I decided that it was time to try and whip up my own. Mostly because it was ONCE AGAIN snowing in Boston and I realized that this soup may be the last soup this season! It had to be a good one.

My Broccoli Cheddar Soup recipe is packed with two types of cheddar cheese (mostly because I was indecisive and didn't know which one would be just right. Turns out having both was a big win). I went with a traditional yellow sharp cheddar, and I also grated up a generous amount of extra sharp white cheddar for an added kick. I really liked the color and smoothness of the yellow cheddar along with the bite and body of the white cheddar. Mostly, I just love cheese.

A large onion is diced and sauteed in a touch of olive oil to begin. I will never start any soup without an onion, the flavor is unmatched. 

Next, a thick roux is made in the soup pot by vigorously whisking together a stick of unsalted butter (wee!) with 1/4 cup of flour. Allowing this mixture to thicken will ensure that your soup is creamy and dreamy all the way through.

Of course, this is a cream-based soup so a few cups of milk join the party next. A part of me really wanted to use skim or lowfat milk, but I was worried it wouldn't thicken up as nicely as the whole milk does. So I went with whole milk this time and boy was this soup rich. I would imagine, though, that everything would still taste  amazing if you swapped in a low or non-fat milk.

2 cups of each cheese is grated and thrown into the pot. This may seem excessive but since CHEDDAR is in the name of the soup, I had to be sure that we were slapped with it's cheesy goodness. A big bunch of chopped frozen broccoli and grated carrots are in the wings waiting to go for a cheese bath. They get stirred in along with 1 cup of chicken broth.

I cooked the soup, simmering on low, for about 30 to 45 minutes until thick and the vegetables were very soft and tender. As it cooked, it did get thicker so I would gradually add in more chicken stock a cup or so at a time until I felt it was just right. You can play with the stock measurements below until it suits you!

The final verdict: this soup completely satisfied my cravings for Panera's broccoli cheddar. It wasn't quite as thick, but I liked that it felt much more like a soup than a cheese dip. The broccoli and carrots flavor up the soup beautifully as they cook, complimenting the cheeses in a way that will definitely keep you coming back for seconds. Warm and flavorful comfort food was just what we needed to melt away that extra bit of snow that was dumped on us. I highly suggest you try out this soup before soup season is over...or hell, just make it any time of year. It's THAT good.

Here's what you need for Broccoli Cheddar Soup* (Print Recipe!)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 sweet onion, diced
1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 1/2 to 4 cups milk
2 cups sharp yellow cheddar, shredded
2 cups extra sharp white cheddar, shredded
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 medium carrots, shredded
2 heaping cups frozen broccoli florets, cut into small, bite size pieces
3 cups low sodium chicken broth (may not use all of it)
Salt and lots of cracked black pepper, to taste

Here's what you do

In a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and cook for 5 to 7 minutes until slightly browned and translucent.  Season with salt and pepper.

Turn down heat slightly and melt in the butter. Once completely melted, whisk in the flour. Stir constantly until the mixture cooks slightly and thickens. It will have a tan hue and will look like a paste.

In a gradual pour, add in the milk, again whisking constantly. Bring heat to medium-high; once there are tiny bubbles along the edges of the pot, whisk in the cheeses and mustard. Allow to cook about 5 to 7 minutes until the cheeses are completely melted and the mixture has thickened a bit.

Stir in the grated carrots and broccoli along with one cup chicken stock. Bring soup to a boil and stir. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 30 to 45 minutes stirring occasionally. While the soup simmers, add in the remaining chicken broth in batches until the soup has your desired thickness. Season with a generous amount of black pepper and salt to taste.

Serve with a crusty bread and light salad for a complete meal. Garnish with extra cracked pepper.

*Gas Stove Girl Original Recipe

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