In small volumes, the vegetable stock recipe I shared here last week has many uses, from flavoring steamed rice, risotto or beans to replacing some oil in a sauce, marinade or salad dressing. When I set aside cups of freshly made stock or defrost several frozen portions, I’m likely making soup.
Broccoli cheese soup was a childhood favorite and among the first soups I learned to make from scratch on my own. My mom’s recipe was less flavorful, skipping the lemon juice and mustard and melting a milder cheese into the sauce, but followed a similar process.
While I’m still harvesting fresh broccoli, I make this soup with fresh stems and florets, onion and potato. To prep for winter meals, I steam-blanch broccoli by the pound for about five minutes or grill it and the onion in batches and then freeze them; raw frozen broccoli tastes bitter and woody when defrosted. If you have that prep work done and homemade stock at hand, you can skip the first sautéing step: Just bring the stock to a simmer, add the still-frozen broccoli and onion and then continue with the recipe.
The roux-based cheese sauce thickens this soup nicely, but including potato gives a denser, chowder-style texture. Leftover baked or mashed potato works in the frozen-vegetable variation. For even more texture, set aside an extra cup of broccoli florets, either frozen or fresh and briefly steamed. Drop these into the pot after you’ve pureed the soup or sprinkle them on individual bowls like a garnish.
Fresh Broccoli and Cheddar Soup
6 tablespoons butter, divided
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped potato (optional)
4 cups chopped broccoli stems and florets
6 cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
2 cups grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
In a stockpot, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion and potato, if using, and sauté for five to 10 minutes, until softened; add the broccoli and sauté for about five minutes, until the onion starts to brown.
Stir in the stock, lemon juice, mustard and oregano; bring to a simmer and then cook for five to 10 minutes, until the broccoli stems can be pierced with a fork.
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Let it bubble for about 30 seconds, and then add the flour. Cook, stirring thoroughly, for about two minutes, until the flour darkens slightly. Gradually blend in the milk, stirring with a whisk over medium heat until thickened. Stir in the cheese until it is uniformly melted.
Using an immersion blender, puree the vegetables; alternatively, carefully pour the soup into an upright blender in batches and puree until smooth. Stir in the cheese sauce, season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.
Julie Laing is a Bigfork-based cookbook author and food blogger at TwiceAsTasty.com.
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