One Saturday, many years ago, I had a craving for broccoli cheese soup. But not any old soup would do; on this particular day it had to be from Panera.
At the time, the closest Panera was about two miles away, not a big deal, right? I arrived towards the end of the lunch rush only to discover they had run out of soup. At 12:30. On a Saturday.
So I did what any sane person with a craving did: I left and continued my search for soup.
I jumped in my car, got on the highway, and drove a few miles to the next town, where I knew there to be another Panera. At this point, I didn’t even want to consider what I’d do should they run out of soup – I wasn’t even sure where the next closest Panera was, but I was desperate enough to find out, I have to admit.
Luckily for me, and the employees, and anyone else in my path, as I was rather hungry by this point, this particular restaurant still had plenty of broccoli cheese soup. (And incidentally, there now is another Panera nearby, this one even closer than the first from my journey several years back.)
That day, as I enjoyed my lunch, I thought about how I really needed to find a good recipe for broccoli cheese soup. I found many, all of which seemed to call for pureeing the soup. I discovered quickly that I did NOT want my soup pureed.
Seriously, it’s a nasty pea green then. Yuck – not exactly the look I was going for.
This past week, after a renewed search for a copycat recipe, I thought I finally found what I was looking for. This recipe was plastered all over the internet, including by someone who chose not to puree the soup (hooray!).
I made a subtle change to the recipe by swapping lactose-free milk for the half and half, and went to work. This recipe is a great starting point, but my god, there is just WAY too much cheese.
Did I really just say that? Me, who loves cheese so much that it’s one of the first things I start eating again after having the stomach flu (for reasons I can’t explain, my digestive system and cheese get along great…milk, not so much), thought a recipe had too much cheese?
Well, my friend B thought it was fine, and proceeded to eat two bowls, sopping up the remaining with the baguette I had toasted. But me? I couldn’t finish one bowl of soup, even with the baguette toasts. Don’t get me wrong…I will be trying this recipe again, but next time, I will periodically taste the soup as I’m whisking in cheese!
Broccoli Cheddar Soup
adapted from this recipe
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ yellow onion, diced
¼ cup all purpose flour
2 cups low fat milk
2 cups chicken stock
1 carrot, shredded
½ pound broccoli, cut into flowerets
8 ounces medium cheddar, shredded*
salt and pepper
Heat butter in large pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 7 minutes. Whisk in flour. Continue to whisk until it starts to smell “nutty” and loses its raw flour scent.
Slowly whisk in milk, about a couple of tablespoons at a time (the flour mixture will remain thick during this time). Add chicken stock and bring to a simmer; simmer for 20 minutes.
Add carrots and broccoli, simmer for another 20 minutes or until vegetables soften. Reduce heat to low, add cheese while whisking. Add salt and pepper to taste.
*In my opinion, this soup probably needs about half the amount of cheese called for, but I really recommend tasting often while adding the cheese, until it’s to your liking.