Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Broccoli Cheese Soup

I stumbled upon this recipe while looking through my hoarded Cook's Illustrated magazines, and it piqued my interest.  Broccoli Cheese soup always sounds good but I dislike the amount of cream that typically goes in it (I prefer to get my extra calories from a stellar dessert!)

What's great about this soup is that there isn't any cream!  It tastes rich enough without it (with no real calorie bombs) and the broccoli is the star of the soup with good flavor. 

The article in the magazine explains how they came to this final recipe (so it really doesn't need any extra fiddling!)  I was surprised about the addition of baking soda, but there's science behind it.  When you cook broccoli for a long time, it can begin to taste sulfurous, due to isothiocyanates, which is obviously never an ideal flavor.  The added baking soda staves off that nasty flavor.

 And this was another opportunity to use my favorite appliance - an immersion blender - whoo hoo!

I decided last minute to make croutons to top off the soup and to give it some textural contrast.  What better bread to use than my favorite local artisan rosemary bread?  The croutons turned out fantastic (I'd ask the husband what he thought, but he's busy swiping croutons from the bowl and munching away.)

A bite of this creamy, flavorful soup with a crispy crouton is the perfect remedy for the dreary days of November!

Broccoli Cheese Soup
(from Cook's Illustrated)
Serves 6-8

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 lbs broccoli, florets roughly chopped into 1-inch pieces, stems trimmed, peeled, and cut into 1/4 inch thick pieces
1 medium onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
2-3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp. dry mustard powder
Pinch cayenne pepper
Table salt
3 c. water
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
2 oz. baby spinach (2 loosely packed cups)
3 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (3/4 cup)
1 1/2 oz. Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 3/4 cup), plus extra for serving
Black pepper

~ 6 slices of bread of choice (I used a rustic, artisan rosemary bread)
3 Tbsp melted butter or olive oil
1 tsp garlic powder
Pinch salt 

1) Heat butter in large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When foaming subsides, add broccoli, onion, garlic, dry mustard, cayenne, and 1 tsp salt.  Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 6 minutes. Add 1 cup water and baking soda.  Bring to simmer, cover, and cook until broccoli is very soft, about 15-20 minutes, stirring once during cooking.

2) Add broth and 2 cups water and increase heat to medium-high. When mixture begins to simmer, stir in spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Blend soup with immersion blender or in batches with regular blender.  Add cheeses and reheat briefly, stirring, to melt.

3) Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Cut bread into 1/2-3/4 inch cubes.  Mix melted butter or olive oil with garlic powder and salt.  Toss with bread cubes until they're coated.  Pour out on a rimmed baking sheet, place in oven. Bake for 15 minutes, stir and bake until dry and crispy (10-15 minutes more).

4) Top soup with freshly grated Parmesan and homemade croutons.


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