If you've had it nowhere else, you've probably had Broccoli-Cheese Soup at Panera Bread. Theirs is pretty tasty, particularly in a bread bowl. Not that the bread bowl changes the flavor of the soup - it's just an added bonus that you get to devour a broccoli-cheese flavored breadbowl once the soup is gone. This is quite in keeping with my general philosophy that soup and stews are best eaten with bread as an implement rather than silverware.
As it ends up, it's pretty easy to make broccoli-cheese soup at home, too - and it's quite a lot healthier than Panera's. Give it a try!
It's a nice, vegetable-heavy cast of characters today. Broccoli takes the forefront, in a broth of milk, cream, cheese, and chicken broth (vegetable broth or none at all is okay if you're going vegetarian). Onion, salt, pepper, paprika, and nutmeg add a bit of flavor, and flour thickens things up nicely.
You've got a lot of vegetables to chop. Start with the onion.
Then the broccoli! It's hard to tell from the picture, but I contentedly included some stems as well. The soup will simmer long enough to cook them thoroughly, so don't be afraid of a bit of stem with your florette.
Saute the onions with some butter in a large dutch oven or stock pot. Use a bit more butter than you strictly need to keep the onions from sticking, as you'll need to give the flour something to mix with in a moment.
After 3-4 minutes of cooking, when the onions are becoming translucent, reduce the heat a bit and add the flour. Stir for a bit and you'll end up with a truly unpleasant looking mixture. Fear not.
Once the onions, butter, and flour are combined, it's time to get things simmering. Add the milk, cream, chicken broth, and broccoli and simmer over medium-low heat for about a half hour.
That half-hour of simmering is the perfect chance to grate your cheese. Yes, you could buy shredded cheese, but storebought shredded cheese generally comes with an extra helping of chemicals, and is covered in a starchy or pulpy coating to keep it from sticking - we don't need all that extra stuff.
So while everything simmers, bust out the grater and turn a block of cheese...
...into a pile of cheese.
After a half-hour of simmering, the flour from the onions will have thickened things up nicely, and the broccoli should be nice and tender. Taste a piece (careful, it'll hold the heat like crazy!) to be sure it's at an edible texture - if not, give it another 10 minutes or so.
Once the broccoli is tender enough for your liking, mix the cheese in a bit at a time.
Once that's all mixed through, season to taste. I like plenty of black pepper, a good amount of salt, some paprika, and just the barest dash of nutmeg. Yes, nutmeg. Trust me.
Give it a couple of minutes to make sure everything is melted and the flavors well-married, and it's time to eat!
If you're particularly picky about texture, you can give the finished soup a spin in the blender on puree until it's smoother. This will result in a more Panera-esque soup, but also results in much smaller chunks of broccoli. Personally, I just leave it alone and enjoy the rustic texture.
Recipe: Broccoli-Cheese Soup
Prep Time: 10 minutes | Cook Time: 40 minutes | Difficulty: Easy | Servings: 8-10
- 4 Heads Broccoli, chopped
- 1 large Sweet Onion, diced
- 5 cups Milk
- 1 cup Heavy Cream
- 1/2 cup Chicken Broth
- 1/2 cup Flour
- 1/4 cup Butter
- 12 oz. Grated Cheese (cheddar)
- 1 tbsp Salt
- 1 tbsp Black Pepper
- 2 tsp Smoked Paprika
- 1/2 tsp Nutmeg
- Dice onion and chop broccoli into bite-sized pieces.
- In a large dutch oven over medium-high heat, saute onions with butter 4-5 minutes. Reduce heat and add flour, stirring until combined.
- Add milk, cream, chicken broth, and broccoli. Simmer over low heat 30 minutes until broccoli is tender.
- Slowly add grated cheese and seasonings. Stir until cheese is melted.
- Optional: Puree to desired texture.
- Serve hot.