Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Broccoli-Cheese Soup

I have always been a little imitidated by making soups. I'm not sure where this fear originated from, but I decided to conquer it after all. I threw open the closet door, expecting a big hair soup monster to attack me and lo and behold- there was nothing there. There is nothing to fear but fear itself. Aw such wise words. Fear not! Soup is easy!

Soup seems to be such a great way to use up ANYTHING you have in the fridge that is mocking you by not having been used.  I had some leftover broccolli in the fridge staring me down begging to be used. I knew I had chicken stock, some heavy cream (freshly purchased to make my favorite scones later this week) and knew I would have extra. So- here I was all the components to make a great soup lay before me. All that was standing in my way was fear. Perhaps that is what I love about being in the kitchen the most- it is always a challenge and always a learning experience.

I did a quick internet search for broccoli soups (with cheese of course!) and found a few similar recipes on Annie's Eat's blog and The Curvy Carrot.  I adapted to what I had on hand, and lightened it up a bit by reducing the cream, and using more of the milk (1%, to make it even lighter). I used fat free chicken broth as oppossed to vegetable broth (sorry vegetarians- but it was in my fridge!) I did not have cheddar cheese, but a montery-cheddar blend. Hey, the only bad cheese is no cheese right? I also subsituted out the bay leaves -(again- just wasn't in my fridge!) and had some leftover thyme from my herb-roasted potatoes and decided what the heck, I'll use up those!

There was one moment where I was about to throw in the proverbial soup towel. I had begun making my roux with the flour and butter. Good things were occurring. I added my cream and began to stir. Still all was well. Then when I added the broth, some icky coagulation between heavy cream and broth began to occur. A happy marriage it was not- but I kept stirring! This is blissful union in the end. Fear not!

Upon first spoonful- absolute bliss! My soup monster is gone! Throw away my closet door (if you have seen Monsters, Inc. ever you know what I'm talking about)..I am no longer afraid. I'm now currently hunting down more soup recipes. 

*** I made a smaller batch of this. Eight servings?! (I was making it for 2..and a few lunches for the next day so a half batch was all I needed.) If it becomes a little too thick, thin it out with a little more broth or milk until the desired consistency is again reached.

Here is the final version of what I came up with:

Broccoli Cheese Soup
Servings: approximately 8 servings
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups milk (I used 1%)
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 cup vegetable broth (plus more if needed) (I used fat free chicken broth)
Pinch nutmeg
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 carrots, grated
4 cups broccoli florets
8 ounces shredded monterey-jack and cheddar cheese blend
1. In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter.
2. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently.
3. Remove the onions from the heat and set aside.
4. In a large Dutch oven or sauce pot over medium heat, whisk together the flour, milk, and cream.**It’s very important to be PATIENT here and whisk continuously.  The mixture will be lumpy, but it will smooth out eventually with the heat.
5. Whisking constantly, add the vegetable broth until smooth.
6. Add the nutmeg, bay leaves, and salt and pepper (to taste) and let the mixture simmer,uncovered, for about 20 minutes.
7. Add the cooked onions, broccoli, and carrot, mixing well.  Let simmer for another 20 minutes.
8.  Add the cheese and stir until completely melted, adding more broth if necessary.

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