Monday, February 21, 2011

Broccoli-Cheese Soup

One of my favorite soups to order out is broccoli-cheddar soup, but since it is usually heavy on the cheese and cream, and light on vegetables, I try to abstain.  Therefore, I was excited when I saw this recipe in this month's Cook's Illustrated.  The whole point of this version is to give you lots of vegetable and broccoli flavor, with a hint of cheese.  It is heavy on vegetables and light on cheese.  It's reasonably healthy, and quite simple to prepare as well, so it makes it a double winner.

When developing this recipe, they wanted to highlight the broccoli.  In order to do that and allow the broccoli to be incorporated into every bite, you basically have to cook the beejesus out of it.  However, by cooking it for so long, the soup took on an unattractive grayish color.  This is remedied by cooking the broccoli with baking soda - it causes it to cook faster while still retaining its bright color.  Adding a handful of spinach towards the end of cooking also enhances the green hue.  The soup is then pureed with both Parmesan and cheddar, and you are left with a bright green, velvety soup that is full of broccoli flavor.

With the weather starting to turn to spring, this soup is a great transition meal - warm and comforting soup with lots of bright and fresh flavor.  I served this soup with turkey paninis, and we felt like we were in our own little cafe!

Broccoli-Cheddar Soup
adapted from Cook's Illustrated, March/April 2011
serves 6-8
  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 2 pounds broccoli - florets cut into small pieces, stalks peeled and chopped into small chunks
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 3-4 cups water
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 2 oz baby spinach (about 2 cups)
  • 3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese, plus more for serving
  • 3/4 cup  finely grated Parmesan cheese
Melt the butter in a dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the broccoli, onion, dry mustard, cayenne, garlic, and 1 teaspoon salt.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the broccoli and onion are fragrant and slightly softened, about 6 minutes.  Add 1 cup of water and baking soda, cover, and cook until the broccoli is very soft, about 20 minutes, stirring periodically.

Add the broth and 2 cups of water, and bring to a simmer.  Add the spinach, and cook until wilted, about 1-2 minutes.  Transfer half the soup to a blender with half the cheese, and puree until smooth, about 1 minute.  Transfer the soup to a medium bowl and repeat with the remaining soup.  Return all the soup back to the pot, and bring to a light simmer.  Thin the soup out with the remaining water if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve with additional cheddar.


Eliana said...

You know, I'm not a fan of broccoli but LOVE a good broccoli cheese soup. This one looks and sounds incredibly delicious.

Sara said...

I remember reading the write-up for this recipe. It was a pretty unconventional technique, but that's CI, right? I'm looking forward to trying this now.

SMV1216 said...

I had some really nice cheddar and a ton of fresh broc in the house and decided to make this soup. Something was really off with it, because by the time it was ready to place in the blender, the amount of liquid was way too much. I ended up using a slotted spoon to get the last half of the soup into the blender and didn't use any of the liquid (probably about 2 cups left over). I added a little extra spinach during the blending. Even after discarding so much liquid, it was fairly thin. Just a heads up, depending on products or I don't know what else, may be necessary to not just dump everything into the blender without checking consistency.

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