It was fourteen degrees outside when I put M and O on the school bus this morning. While the kids were playing in the snow yesterday, the grown ups were marveling at how “warm” it was, at a balmy thirty-four degrees. That’s how you know winter is really here, thirty-four degrees is a welcome temperature. Another way I know winter is really here is that dinner starts revolving around what kind of soup I want to make. M is a huge fan of the broccoli cheddar soup at Panera (who isn’t??) and I’ve been telling her I can make it at home for a while now. As the temperature steadily dropped, it was time to make good on that promise. M has declared this “better than Panera’s” and gobbled down three bowls of this, so next time I’m making a double batch. Considering that O is the kid who will eat a hunk of raw broccoli for a snack (choosing it over a cupcake no less) I shouldn’t have been surprised that he loved this at well. Lane was the big surprise- he loathes broccoli but even he likes this soup.
It’s really not hard to make this at home, but I do recommend investing in an immersion blender if you don’t have one already. Otherwise, you’ll need to allow time to cool the soup before briefly putting it in a blender in batches in order to puree it. The soup is so good, you really won’t want to wait for all of that. I’ve made this before with frozen broccoli and it worked just fine. In general I like to shred or grate my own cheese for things like this because I find that the stabilizers in the pre-shredded kind you buy in a bag don’t let the cheese melt at just the right rate. The pre-shredded kind will work fine, you may just find that you need to lower the temperature slightly to keep the soup from burning before the cheese has melted. For a real Panera copycat experience, this is great served in a sourdough bread bowl. Hollow out a small round loaf of bread and tear up the pieces of removed bread for dipping in this soup and it’s a great way to warm yourself from the inside out.
“Better than Panera’s” Broccoli Cheddar Soup
- 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 small onion, minced
- 1/4 C. all-purpose flour
- 2 C. half-and-half
- 3 C. low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 4 C. broccoli florets (about 1 head)
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 2 1/2 C. (about 8 ounces total) grated sharp white and yellow cheddar cheese, plus more for garnish
Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat.
Add the onion and cook until tender, stirring, about 5 minutes.
Whisk in the flour and cook until golden, 3 to 4 minutes.
Slowly whisk in the half-and-half until smooth.
Add the chicken broth, bay leaves, and nutmeg then season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, until thickened, about 20 minutes.
Add the broccoli and carrot to the broth mixture and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes.
Discard the bay leaves.
Puree the soup using an immersion blender (or cooled, in batches, in a blender) until smooth, leaving flecks of carrot and broccoli.
Add the cheese to the soup and whisk over medium heat until melted.
Add up to 3/4 cup water if the soup is too thick (I didn’t find this necessary).
Ladle into bowls and garnish with cheese.
Makes 4 servings.
Source: Food Network Magazine, January/February 2010