Sunday, January 3, 2010

Broccoli "Cream" Soup

Los Angeles friends, I need you to close your eyes and pretend with me. Let's pretend that it's not 70 degrees and sunny in January. Instead, let's pretend that it's cold and windy and drizzly out, and that you're about to hunker down with a cable-knit throw and a good book. If you're like me, after a season of chocolate and eggnog and glazed meats, your body wants something green to balance it all out, and I think this broccoli soup is just the thing.

The recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, Martha Stewart's Cooking School.
Doesn't Martha look cute on the cover? Anyway, I love this book because while many cookbooks present a collection of recipes, this one is designed like a textbook, and teaches cooking methods behind each of the recipes. I've made cauliflower, potato, spinach, and butternut squash soup all under this same method. In fact, last winter, the pureed soup was my favorite way to eat vegetables.

While this recipe gets bonus points for including both butter and cream, I put cream in quotation marks because it's only a teensy little swirl at the end, which could easily be omitted if you're not as into cream as I am. Likewise, the butter could be switched out with olive oil, or reduced to about half the amount if you're watching your fat intake.
Chop some onions (and take a blurry photo of them).
Chop some broccoli... I never hated broccoli as a child. In fact we ate steamed broccoli every night. It's a wonder I don't hate it now. Don't throw away the broccoli stem!
Peel the stem, and then slice it into coins. There's a ton of flavor in the stem, so I love that this recipe uses it. I was a little worried about not having enough vegetables, so I also peeled and chopped two red potatoes.
Ok, so now we're all chopped and ready for action. Melt some unsalted (always unsalted unless I say otherwise) butter, and add the onion.

Now onions I did hate as a child. But they're an essential flavor component here, and you won't even recognize them once they're all blended up.

Now we're going to make a roux, which is just a mixture of flour and fat. You know the creaminess of pot pie, mac n cheese, and clam chowder? Roux baby... Add your flour, stir it for a quick minute, but don't let it brown.
Now add your chicken stock. I'll teach you how to make chicken stock, and your mind will be blown. It is that simple. But that's for another day. Bring the whole mixture to a simmer whisking every now and again. It should get nice and thick and creamy. Guess what? You made a veloute base! Veloute = roux + stock. You are now ready for your french cooking exam, congrats.
Once it simmers, add your potatoes, broccoli stems, salt and pepper. Bring the pot back up to a boil, then add the broccoli florets to the hot tub.
Now you let your veggies cook in the simmering veloute for about 20 minutes. A simmer is just little bubbles in the liquid, not the full rolling boil that you'd cook pasta in. Your vegetables are ready when you can smash the broccoli up against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon.

Now it gets really crazy! Use a ladle and fill your blender halfway with soup...
And hit puree! I love to puree, you will learn this in the months to come. Does anyone have a baby I can make baby food for?

Now, transfer your finished soup into a large serving bowl or another pot. When all the soup has pureed, season it with salt and pepper again. Don't be shy about this. I think one major difference between restaurant food and home cooked food is that home cooks don't use as much salt. So go for it! Now, if you're feeling sexy, add a small swirl of heavy cream to the pot of soup. The cream makes the texture extra silky smooth. You'll be glad you did.

Top it off with some parmesan cheese or a slice of toasted bread, and you'll be ready for that chilly winter day. Even if you have to imagine your cold weather.

Creamy Broccoli Soup
From Martha Stewart's Cooking School

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock
1 head broccoli
2 small potatoes (I used red, but Yukon Gold would also be a good choice)
Course salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream (optional, I only used about 1/4 cup)

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute (the flour should not take on any color). Pour in stock, whisking to incorporate fully, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, whisking fairly often to cook out raw flour taste and thicken the liquid (it should reach the consistency of heavy cream).

Add broccoli stems and season with salt and pepper. Return to a boil, stirring to combine, then add florets and return to a boil. Reduce heat and gently simmer until tender enough to mash with the back of a spoon, 10 to 20 minutes.

Working in batches (do not fill more than halfway), pour contents of pot into a blender and puree until smooth (you can also use a food mill, an immersion blender, or a food processor). Martha says to pass the soup through a fine sieve, but I skip this step because I like the texture better when it's not strained. But it's up to you.

Set the pot over low heat and whisk in cream. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately. Store your leftovers in an airtight container, and refrigerate for a few days, or freeze for up to a few months.

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