September 16, 2013

Soup and Bread for a Rainy Day

As I'm watching the Seattle v. San Francisco game after a long weather delay, we in Colorado are experiencing our fifth or sixth day in a row of rain.  Seattle and the rest of the non-Mountain States might wonder at our insane flooding and general inability to deal with a few days of rain.  But we normally live in a constant state of drought and have received an entire year's worth of rain in the past few days. I've heard that if this was winter, Boulder and some areas of Denver would be buried under ten to twelve feet of snow.

In case you don't actually know me or live in Colorado, I am safe and dry inside my undamaged home. However, my friends a few blocks away had to bail our their basement and pretty much everyone I know in Boulder has been getting around in waders and canoes.  Also, if you don't live in an area with forest fires, you may not realize that burn scars make flash flooding that much more intense and dangerous. It's bad combination and it's a really, really bad situation.

Food-wise, it's the first time in months that my apartment has been in the seventies and will serve as an opportunity for reacclimatizing before the first frost.  In other words, it's pleasant to be in a warm kitchen and soup is on the menu.  Plus, it's football Sunday as I'm writing and cooking, so I thought an American classic - Broccoli Cheese Soup - sounded especially good.  It was.

A couple of notes about the soup I made:

- Turmeric is completely optional.  I have some in the crisper and I like the trompe-l'œil of the yellow hue without having used yellow cheese.  If you're cheese is yellow, that's fine, too.

- I actually did not eat bread with my soup, despite the title of the post. I had some to eat with the soup, but it tasted off.  I replaced it with rye crackers, which I'm really getting into these days.

- After I finished making the soup, I remembered that I have a really good ale in the fridge and I should have used it as an ingredient.  If that sounds good to you, increase the milk to 2 1/2 cups and replace the water with a bottle of medium-dark beer.  I know much more about wine than beer, but I suggest a red or brown ale.

- For my extra-pungent cheese, I used Beehive's Barely Buzzed cheese.  It is a sharp cow's milk cheese with a coffee-lavender rub.  It is very good.  I decided to use the last couple ounces I had for the soup because I have already had a homemade cheese plate and wine for dinner one and a half times in the past three days.

- Please don't leave giant chunks of things in your soups (maybe unless it's ramen or pho).  It's just not nice to have to cut up things in a bowl of soup.  Or bite into chunks of things while they are dripping broth, which is rather unbecoming.

  • Large head of broccoli
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 inch piece of turmeric, grated
  • 2 T. flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups water or broth
  • 2 oz. extra-sharp, hard cheese of choice (see note), grated
  • 6 oz. sharp, melty cheese of choice (like cheddar or Monterey jack), grated
  • Salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Good bread or rye crackers

Carefully chop broccoli into a mix of small dice and bite-sized pieces (see note).

In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Once hot, add onion and grate in turmeric with a microplane. Stir occasionally until onion is soft.  Stir in broccoli and let sit for a couple of minutes, to encourage a little browning.  Stir a few times, cooking until just soft.  Add in olive oil.

Sprinkle flour over vegetables and stir until absorbed.  It's okay if it starts to stick to the bottom of the pan and brown.  That's flavor.  While stirring, add in milk bit by bit.  Once fully incorporate, add water or beer.  Once the soup just reaches a boil, add cheese and stir until fully melted and incorporated.  Heat until just reaching a boil and turn off heat.

Because the cheeses and broth can really vary in saltiness, season with anywhere from a half teaspoon to two teaspoons salt.  Grind in lots of black pepper.

Serve with bread or crackers to dip into the soup.  Feel cozy.

Serves 4 to 6.

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