While having some potato soup at a local establishment, Mom mentioned the Broccoli Cheddar soup that we used to get at Marie Calendars. Since the weather seemed to be getting colder, I thought a Creamy Broccoli Cheddar soup would be prefect. Though you can find it at various restaurants, if you don't get there when the soup is freshly made, you can end up with a thick gummy mess that you could basically cut with a knife. And I find most of the soups you tend to get at chain restaurants these days are way to salty for my taste. And lets be honest, just how "fresh" are these soups or are they coming from a can because half the time I don't really taste the broccoli.
But which cookbook had recipes for the soup? I decided to use one of my favorite tools to find a recipe in my vast array of cookbooks...Eat Your Books* (more on that later). Sure enough, I found several books with the recipe. But quite a few of them asked for flour, potatoes or other fillers to be added. I wanted something that would showcase the flavor of the broccoli more. So I chose the recipe from The Cooks Country Cookbook..it seemed simple and something I could make with ease. It still had plenty of cheese and some cream, but it was made with fresh broccoli.
I was a little worried about this soup at first. It seemed much thinner than most of the broccoli cheddar soups I've had, but that turned out to not be such a bad thing. The flavor of the broccoli stood out much more than the cheddar cheese and together the soup had a wonderful fresh flavor you don't get from canned soups or those chain restaurant versions. This reheated very well (none of the coagulated mess) and my Mom said it even tasted good cold!
The preamble to the recipe states that what makes this soup so good is using the stalks of the broccoli for more flavor. It is a bit more work to peel the stalks, slice them up and make what they call a "broccoli stock" first, but I think it makes all the difference in the flavor of this soup.
Again, super simple and easy to make, perfect soup for these cold and rainy spring days we seem to be having. And healthy. Cuz it has fresh broccoli in it. Which negates any bad influence from the cream and cheese. Right?
CREAMY BROCCOLI AND CHEDDAR SOUP
(The Cooks Country Cookbook)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 pounds broccoli, stalks peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices, florets chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 cups shredded mild cheddar cheese, plus extra for garnish
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the broccoli stalks and cook until bright green and just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the broth, increase the heat to medium-high, and simmer until the stalks are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the florets, cream, and nutmeg and simmer until the florets are tender, about 5 minutes.
Puree the soup in two batches in a blender until smooth, return to the pot, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in the cheese until melted and season with salt and cayenne. Serve, garnished with extra cheese. (The soup can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Reheat over medium heat until hot, but do not boil or the cheese will separate.)
Taste the soup before adding any salt; both the cheese and the chicken broth can be quite salty.
Note: To thicken this up a bit more you could always just add more cheese. And for a more pronounced cheese taste, you might use a sharper cheddar or half sharp half mild.
Note: I think some crumbled bacon would go well as a garnish here (of course right??)
I really did like the flavor of this soup and will definitely make it again.
*Eat Your Books is a service where you can list all the cookbooks you own, and then be able to use their search engine to find recipes. All I had to do was type in "Broccoli Cheddar Soup" into my "library" list of cookbooks and it gave me 20 different recipes, the cookbook it could be found in, and an ingredient list of what was needed for the recipe. That way I could rule out recipes that had potatoes or flours, two ingredients I didn't want in my Broccoli Cheddar Soup. They do not post the actual recipe. What this meant was that I didn't have to pull out a ton of cookbooks just to find the one recipe I needed. Think of the service as a giant index that covers all the cookbooks you own.