Thursday, October 13, 2011

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

I don't know about you guys, but one of my favorite things about fall (besides Starbuck's Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate) is finally getting to make soup again! If I make soup in the summer, my family looks at me like I'm crazy. But as soon as the weather changes, it's all they ask for.

We make lots of soup in this house. Minestrone, corn chowder, taco soup, homemade chicken noodle, beef stew, and on and on. We love soup especially with yummy homemade rolls, and one of the soups my kids (yes, my kids) ask for the most is broccoli cheddar soup.

I got this recipe in my former life in Cleveland. My husband and I had just discovered Panera Bread and we loved their broccoli soup. So did every one else, since it was sold out by noon most days. So I went home one day and researched some recipes and found one that was very similar. I can't remember where I got the recipe (it's been years!) so if someone wants to take credit, go for it. I have changed it up to suit my tastes and cooking style since I am all about the easy.

Here's your lineup. All of the vegetables came from my Bountiful Basket last Saturday. I *love* my baskets and how easy it is to get my kids to eat more healthy these days! It's all pretty easy, and you can cut down on the fat in this cream-based soup by using fat free half and half like I did.
Mmmm.....  just looking at the ingredients makes me happy. Oh, and do yourself a favor. A big one. See those carrots on the left? The big, huge raw ones? Don't use those. Unless you love cutting carrots julienne-style. It took me almost half an hour to try and cut them small enough for my liking. So go out and buy a bag of pre-cut matchstick carrots. Like the kind that you use on salads. You'll thank me later. I suppose you can grate your carrots, but you don't want them toooooo thin, because they will just get mushy and get lost in the soup. Enough about carrots.
Start by sauteeing your onion in butter. I love the smell of sauteed onions. The only way to make this better is to add garlic to it. And hey, you can if you want. No one will stop you.
While the onion sautes, start your roux. It's just flour and butter whisked together. Later this will be what makes your soup nice and thick. But make sure you cook it for a couple minutes to get rid of the flour taste.
Next you slowly add your half and half while stirring constantly. No one likes a lumpy soup. Just slowly put it in there and whisk.
Next add your broth. I just typed brother, not broth. Please don't add your brother. You can use stock if that's what you have on hand. In fact, I think the original recipe I found used stock, but I'll be honest and admit I don't really see a difference in stock and broth, other than the higher price tag on the stock. Someone can enlighten me if you like.
After the half and half/broth mixture has simmered about 20 minutes, dump in the veggies. You want to chop them up pretty small in order to have them soften quickly. Simmer them for about 20 to 25 minutes too, but check on them periodically. When they are tender, it's time to blend!
Now, you can put your soup in batches in your blender and add it back to the pot. Or if you have an immersion blender like me, you can use that too. I like mine about 50/50. Half pureed, half not. The more you blend it, the thicker it will be, but I still like to have some chunks of broccoli and carrot in my soup. If you like yours less pureed or all the way pureed, it's totally up to you.
Next is the cheese. The best part of every meal. And please, please, please use sharp cheddar. Any other kind just won't do this soup justice.
Okay, so this isn't the prettiest soup out there. But it definitely rocks! If I can find a better picture later, I will repost it. But trust me when I say this will warm you up and fill you up all at once. Enjoy!

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

2 Tbsp butter, melted
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted
1/2 cup flour
4 cups half and half (fat free is fine)
4 cups chicken broth (or stock)
1 pound fresh broccoli, chopped
2 cups carrots, julienned (or precut matchstick carrots)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp nutmeg (optional)
16 oz. grated sharp cheddar (about 4 cups)

Saute onion in 2 Tbsp butter. Set aside. Cook melted butter and flour using a whisk over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly. Slowly add the half and half, stirring constantly while adding. Add the chicken stock, whisking the whole time. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the broccoli, carrots and onions. Cook over low heat until the veggies are tender, about 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper. The soup should be thickened by now. Pour in batches into blender and puree to your liking (or use an immersion blender). Return to pot over low heat and add the grated cheese. Stir until well blended and melted. Add nutmeg, if desired, and check your salt and pepper, adding more if necessary.

This is amazing in bread bowls, as well!

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