I've never really had any interest in broccoli cheese soup before. To me it just looked like hunks of over-blanched broccoli swimming in artery clogging melted cheese. It just did not seem appetizing to me. But one night a few weeks back Joel came home from work with a request - his supervisor wanted a good, mostly healthy broccoli cheese soup.
At first, I didn't really think much of it. And, to be honest, I wasn't really going to search too hard for one, either. But then a thought came to me...If I can give her a good soup recipe, maybe one night Joel can come home in time for dinner, in time to actually see his daughter that day?
So I started searching, and searching, and getting really dishearted. Either the recipes were sooo not healthy, or they included things like Lite Velveeta Cheese Product (which, what even is that, anyway? Not going in my grocery cart, that's for sure!). I got disheartened. I kind of gave up. It couldn't be done.
And then one day I was "organizing" my massive pile of magazine clippings and scraps of paper with recipes written on them and LO AND BEHOLD! Guess what I found?! A Healthy Broccoli Cheese Soup! The recipe was made by Cook's Illustrated, with a whole story on how they perfected it - not too much cheese, lots of great flavor, high impact color!
And it's official, I've become a convert! This soup was great - it had a lovely flavor, with just the perfect amount of cheese! And the color! Oh man, green pops on your plate (its a secret ingredient! Guess? Give up? Spinach!!) Oh, and in case you are wondering - yes, I know the soup is thick. You don't have to make yours this thick, but remember, I'm teaching a toddler to eat soup. With a spoon. It's hard work, and messy, and we need as thick a soup as possible!
Broccoli Cheese Soup (Cook's Illustrated, March/April 2011)
2 TBSP unsalted butter
2 pounds broccoli, florets roughly chopped into 1" pieces, stems trimmed, peeled and cut into 1/4" pieces
1 medium onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
pinch cayenne pepper
3-4 cups wanter
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 ounces baby spinach (2 cups loosely packed)
3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese (about 3/4 cup)
1 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese (about 3/4 cup) plus extra for serving
salt and pepper, to taste
In a large dutch oven, melt the butter over medium-high heat.
Sautee the broccoli, onion, garlic, dry mustard, cayenne, and 1 tsp salt, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 6 minutes.
Add 1 cup of water and the baking soda.
Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until the broccoli is very soft, about 20 minutes, stirring only once!
Add the broth and 2 cups of water and increase the heat to medium-high.
When the mixture begins to simmer, stir in the spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 minute.
Transfer half of the soup to a blender, add the cheddar and parmesan cheese, and blend until smooth.
Transfer the soup in the blender to a bowl, and blend the remaining soup.
Transfer all of the soup back to the dutch-oven and simmer over medium-high heat.
Adjust the consistency of the soup by adding up to 1 cup of water, depending on what you like.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.