Why It Works
- Charring broccoli florets and simmering the stems builds in layers of different types of broccoli flavor.
- Adding a potato to the simmering soup provides a natural thickener that helps the cheese emulsify and gives the soup a creamy texture.
In the world of cheaty foods, broccoli cheese soup has always seemed like one of the cheatiest. There's nothing wrong with owning it: Cheese is delicious, and not every single lunch has to be virtuous. Still, I sometimes wish that the broccoli part of the whole thing was taken a little more seriously, if only for the purely selfish reason that I love broccoli. My goal here was to create a recipe for broccoli cheese soup that was as comforting as the ultra-cheesy kind you typically find, but simultaneously really tasted like broccoli.
- 1 1/2 pounds (700g) broccoli
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) vegetable oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons (45g) unsalted butter
- 1 medium onion, sliced (about 6 ounces; 170g)
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and finely diced (about 4 ounces; 120g)
- 3 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 cups (475ml) water, or homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
- 3 cups (700ml) whole milk
- 1 small russet potato, peeled and sliced (about 4 ounces; 120g)
- 12 ounces (340g) sharp cheddar cheese, grated (see note)
- 8 ounces (240g) deli-style American cheese, diced (see note)
- 1 teaspoon (3g) mustard powder
- Dash of hot sauce, such as Frank's RedHot
Separate broccoli into florets and stems. Cut florets into bite-size pieces and set aside. Roughly chop stems and reserve separately.
Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat until shimmering. Add broccoli florets and cook, without moving, until charred on the bottom, about 1 minute. Stir, season with salt and pepper, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until tender and charred on several surfaces, about 1 minute longer. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet to cool.
Return Dutch oven to medium heat and add butter, onion, carrot, and broccoli stems. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until tender but not browned, about 5 minutes, lowering heat if necessary. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add water or chicken stock, milk, and potato and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a bare simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until broccoli and potato are completely tender, about 30 minutes.
In a large bowl, toss both cheeses together along with mustard powder. Using an immersion blender or working in batches with a countertop blender, blend soup, adding cheese a handful at a time, until completely smooth. Stir in hot sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in reserved broccoli florets and pulse with blender a few more times until a few pieces are broken down, but most bite-size pieces remain. Serve immediately.
Look for deli-style American cheese at the deli counter of your supermarket. You can use any combination of cheddar, American, and other young, moist cheeses, like Jack or Colby.