Without the red pepper, though, this recipe is essentially Gourmet’s take on classic broccoli cheese soup, a dish that I’ve always had mixed feelings about. At its best, broccoli cheese soup is the epitome of winter comfort food—creamy and rich but chock full of wholesome little broccoli chunks. At its worst, it’s a thick, velveeta-filled sludge of mushy vegetables.
I was intrigued by this particular recipe when I saw that it used potato to give the soup some body rather than just the standard roux or unholy amounts of cheese. I made it for dinner on a cold winter’s night when we were feeling indulgent and, to be totally honest, wasn’t overly impressed. The soup was good, it was just a little bit on the thin side and had an almost sour aftertaste to it that I couldn’t quite pinpoint.
But then a miraculous thing happened. When I heated up the leftover soup for lunch at work the next day, I noticed that not only had the consistency thickened up a bit, but the strange sour taste from the night before had disappeared completely and the flavor of the soup was incredible. So from now on, I’ll be making this soup the day before I plan to eat it. Kind of a pain but the best things in life, they say, are worth waiting for.
Broccoli and Cheddar Chowder (Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook;also found here)
1 small head broccoli (1/2 pound)
1 large boiling potato (1/2 pound)
1 large onion, chopped
l large garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups (6 oz) sharp Cheddar, coarsely grated (I used mild)
1) Discard tough lower third of broccoli stem. Peel remaining stem and finely chop. Cut remaining broccoli into very small (1-inch) florets. Cook florets in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes.
2) Transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking, then drain. Reserve 3 cups cooking water for chowder.
3) Peel potato and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Cook potato, onion, broccoli stems, and garlic in butter in a 3- to 4-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 8 to 10 minutes.
4) Add cumin, salt, pepper, and mustard and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add flour and cook, stirring, 2 minutes.
5) Add reserved cooking water and simmer (partially covered), stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in cream and cheese and cook, stirring, until cheese is melted, then season with salt and pepper.
6) Purée about 2 cups of chowder in a blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids) and return to pot. Add florets and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 2 minutes.