I was searching the internet for a cheddar broccoli soup - one that had a lot of cheddar flavor (versus, say, processed/melty "cheeses") and one that contained a good amount of broccoli and carrots. I also was hoping to find a "copycat" recipe of Panera's cheddar broccoli soup. As I've said before, we don't eat out that often, and even less often at chain restaurants. But, sometimes (like when you are traveling or during a day of marathon Christmas shopping) it happens. Well, Panera is one of the places that I'll chose to eat at when those times occur. I've only been there a two or three times, but every time I've had their cheddar broccoli soup and I love it. So I wanted to replicate it at home. I found a copycat recipe all over the internet. I don't know where it originated or if it's really from there... I read all the copycat recipes and then made my own version below.
This soup was delicious, and like most soups, better for lunch the next day. I enjoyed it a lot - it was exactly what I was imagining. Perfect for a winter dinner (too bad it's been more like April around here lately). I bought these little bread bowls at my grocery's bakery because I thought it would be fun to serve the soup this way. You just need to carefully cut off the tops and pull out some of the bread until it's hollow enough to hold soup (freeze the extra bread for the next time you need to make breadcrumbs). It's completely optional though. You can also puree the soup if you like. This soup will make about 6 servings.
Cheddar broccoli soup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 medium onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons flour
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
4 cups milk
2-3 carrots, grated on the large holes of a box grater
1 lb. frozen broccoli, thawed and drained of excess water
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
about 3 cups grated high-quality sharp white cheddar cheese
In a large soup/stock pot, melt one tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they turn translucent, stirring often. Add the garlic and cook another 1-2 minutes, stirring often. Add a couple good pinches of salt and some fresh cracked black pepper.
Add the remaining butter and stir until it melts. Add the flour and begin to whisk. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, whisking. Begin to slowly add the chicken stock while continuing to whisk to ensure there are no flour lumps. Then add the milk. Let the mixture come up to a low bubble, whisking occasionally to ensure it doesn't burn.
When the mixture is hot and has begun to thicken, add the carrots and broccoli. You may want to chop up any large pieces of broccoli to make sure they are bite-sized, if needed. Continue to whisk as the soup heats. When the soup begins to bubble, reduce the heat to simmer. Continue to cook, whisking occasionally, until the carrots and broccoli are soft, about 20 minutes. Stir in the nutmeg.
When the soup reaches your desired consistency, remove from heat and begin to whisk in the cheese one cup at a time. When you reach three cups, taste and see if you want more cheese or not. You can always add another cup. Adjust salt and pepper as needed. Serve immediately.
What was I cooking one year ago?: creamy spinach and artichoke pasta