I apologize for posting two soups in a row, but this is soup season, isn’t it? This is one of the first recipes I created when I moved to Boston after college. It’s evolved over the years, but remains one of our favorites.
In the early days of culinary experimentation, I made a lot of mistakes. One of them was a misguided version of this soup. “I love broccoli; I love carrots. Why not combine them in this soup?” I thought.
I’ll tell you why. This is a puréed soup. When you blend orange and green, you get brown. Not rich, chocolatey brown, no. More like taupe. It’s hard to convince people to eat taupe soup, no matter how delicious it tastes. And I was an art major in college. I should have known.
So now I stick to a monochromatic color palette. I’ve never been fond of soup that’s essentially a bowl of cheese sauce with an occasional broccoli floret floating by. I want the broccoli to be front and center, and I want my soup to be green, not yellow (or taupe!).
Adding spinach is a stroke of genius, if I say so myself. It enhances that lovely green color, mellows the cruciferous nature of the broccoli, and boosts the nutrition level. Sometimes I throw in a handful of frozen green peas as well.
Let’s not forget that this is a broccoli-cheddar soup. We’re not talking juice-fast cleanse here. Cheese is a serious presence, without completely upstaging the veggies.
Cheddar-chive biscuits are a decadently buttery pleasure with this fairly virtuous soup.
Broccoli Cheddar Soup
makes about 6 servings
1 tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1 tsp. dried thyme (or 1 tbs. fresh)
1 large bunch broccoli, about 2 lbs. (for about 6 cups florets)
1 small potato, peeled and diced
4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable)
1 1/2 tbs. butter
1 1/2 tbs. flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
2 cups chopped fresh spinach (about 3 oz.)
Heat the oil in a large stockpot with a lid over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic; season lightly with salt and pepper. Let the onions soften, stirring now and then, while you prep the broccoli.
Cut the stems off the broccoli right below the heads. Finely chop the tender top few inches of the stems (you can peel them first, if you wish). Add the chopped stems to the pot with the onions. Cut the heads into florets, and halve the larger florets. You should have about 6 cups of small florets.
Once the onions are tender (about 10 minutes), add the florets, the diced potato, and the stock. There will be not quite enough liquid to cover the vegetables; this is fine. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to medium-low, and turn your attention to the cheesy portion of the soup.
Warm the milk in the microwave for 1 minute. In a smaller saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour until smooth. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes. Whisk in the warm milk. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Cook at a low boil for about 3 minutes until thickened. Shut off the heat and whisk in the cheddar.
Check the broccoli. You want it to be tender but still bright green. Stir in the spinach and cook for 1 minute longer, just until the spinach is wilted. Stir in the cheese sauce. Use an immersion (stick) blender to purée the soup. Alternatively, you can purée the soup in batches in a food processor or blender. We like it best with some florets left whole.
This soup freezes very well.