I will be the first to admit that there is nothing sexy or elegant about this recipe. Broccoli Cheese is the workhorse among soups. It’s warming, nutritious, you get your greens into you, and if you are lucky, it also tastes good. Not all of them do, I’ve had some pretty blah broccoli soups in my day. Most notably at my first-year dorm in university, where the kitchen staff had no business messing with heavy, creamy soups. I myself have never tried my hand at it, so when I saw that the most recent issue of Cook’s Illustrated had a recipe, I wanted to give it a try.
Cook’s Illustrated is the only cooking periodical that we get right now. We’ve had other subscriptions in the past but we’ve let most of them lapse as we have a pretty large collection of back issues. Cook’s comes every year courtesy of my parents-in-law and we always enjoy it. I like the way they test different methods of making a dish to arrive at what they consider “the best” way. But I have to confess, I don’t always follow the extra steps involved to get “the best” out of the recipes. As a busy mother of three, who is impatient at the best of times, the extra steps often just feel like extra work.
But for broccoli soup, I thought it worth my while to follow their recipe to the letter. The goal of their recipe was to up the broccoli flavour and reduce the cheese, to make it a true vegetable soup, a very worthy goal indeed. And in their investigations, they found something completely counterintuitive that really worked – cook the broccoli beyond all recognition. It sounds awful because there is nothing worse than overcooked broccoli, in this case, it works. The point is to break down the sulfurous compounds to the point that the broccoli actually tastes like broccoli again. And to speed up this process, they added a touch of baking soda. Weird, definitely, but does it work?
The Results: I haven’t had broccoli soup in quite some time, so I don’t really have anything to measure it against, but I will give this a thumbs up. The flavour was definitely of broccoli, but without a trace of that overcooked, college-dorm-style broccoli. It was creamy without being heavy. And my picky eater, who actually loves broccoli and soup separately, loved it together too. It was a great starter to our dinner and a great way to get a serving of veggies into everyone. This recipe is a keeper, for certain.
Broccoli Cheese Soup – Cook’s Illustrated, March/April 2011
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 pounds broccoli, chopped into 1 inch pieces (include the stems but peel them and cut them into 1/4 inch-thick slices)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp dry mustard powder
3-4 cups water
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 cups chicken broth
2 oz baby spinach
3 oz sharp cheddar, grated
1 1/2 oz parmesan, grated
pepper to taste
In a large pot or dutch oven, heat butter over medium high heat. Add broccoli, onion, garlic, mustard, cayenne and 1 tsp salt. Stir frequently and cook until fragrant, about 6 minutes. Add 1 cup water and baking soda and bring to a simmer. Cook until broccoli is very soft, about 20 minutes.
Add broth and 2 cups water and increase heat to medium high. Bring to a simmer, then stir in spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Add cheeses and blend soup with an immersion blender (alternatively, you can transfer soup to a blender and blend in two batches).
Adjust consistency of soup to your liking with remaining water (I found it didn’t need any more). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serves 8. Each serving has 6.6g of carbs and 2.4g of fiber.