Recently, a close friend joked with me about my never-ending cravings for soup, stating that soup does not, and will not ever, count as a true meal.
But, it should also be said -- this friend lives in Arizona. And sure, if I lived in a climate that was 70+ degrees on any given day, I might think that I was crazy as well for always going straight for a warm bowl of veggies and broth vs., say, a delicious authentic taco or salad.
So instead I just smiled and replied politely, "Spend a winter in Seattle and tell me if your feelings change."
But besides living in a climate where flooding basements, multiple layers of clothing, and trendy rainboots are the norm, there are many reasons why soup will always have a top spot on my short list for go-to winter meals. For starters, it's kind of a create-your-own-adventure dish, which I love! Soup can be simple and elegant, or it can be packed full of pop and flavor profiles that'll leave you excited for leftovers throughout the week. Along with being an excellent make-ahead meal that packs perfectly for lunches, soup is by far the easiest way to sneak a variety of veggies into a picky eater's diet.
This broccoli cheddar soup recipe is a top-notch example of just that. To unknowing pastafarians waiting hungrily around the dinner table, this meal looks as if it contains two ingredients at most -- a wee bit of broccoli and plenty of sharp cheddar cheese deliciousness. (I secretly like to think of this soup as an "everything-but-the-kitchen-sink" recipe, but they don't have to know that.)
After finding a variety of disappointing recipes on the internet that contained can after can of Campbell's or other processed ingredients that I wasn't willing to include, I decided to make up my own recipe instead. And really -- as long as you've got your broccoli, cheese of choice, and a veggie or chicken broth base, the sky's the limit on fine-tuning your ingredients to fit your family's tastes.
Broccoli Cheddar Soup
1 small onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. flour
40-64 oz. low-sodium chicken broth
3-4 heads broccoli florets, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 1/2 cups (8 oz.) grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 Yukon gold potatoes, chopped
1/4 cup half-and-half
Salt and pepper to taste
A note: You'll notice that I used two potatoes for thickening rather than extra cream; if you'd like to leave the potatoes out, replace the 1/4 cup of half-and-half with 2 cups. By using the potatoes as a thickener, I also cut down on the amount of flour; many recipes called for 1/4 cup of flour.
Melt butter in a large dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and carrots and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour while stirring, and cook until golden, about 3-4 minutes, then gradually whisk in the half-and-half until smooth. Add the chicken broth, potatoes, 3/4 of your broccoli and seasoning as needed. Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, until thickened, about 20 minutes.
Once the potatoes and broccoli are tender, puree the soup in batches in a blender or with an immersion blender in the pot until smooth. Add the cheese and your extra chopped broccoli florets to the soup and whisk over medium heat until the cheese melted. Stir occasionally until the broccoli florets are tender; ladle into bowls and serve with sliced bread of your choice on the side.