Broccoli-Cheese Soup

Soup doesn’t have to be seasonal, and by the looks of things in my state, neither does the weather. Snow fell over parts of Arkansas this morning in amounts never recorded before this late in the year. The wet chill in my backyard is confusing the hummingbirds and causing the dogs to make nests out of blankets again. My answer to snow in May is a hot, thick soup the color of spring. Let’s shelter in place, in a good way.

I like garnishing a dish with a hint of what flavors are contained within.
I like garnishing a dish with a hint of the flavors contained within. In this case, a floret of broccoli is more attractive than a cube of Velveeta, but both are combined in this soup. (Velveeta haters, hush.)

The origin of this recipe is a popular one at allrecipes.com. I tweaked it with the addition of baking soda to preserve the bright green of the broccoli, also converting the canned chicken broth to an equivalent amount of water and chicken base (a concentrated chicken paste). I’ve made this in vats for my Third Thursday café, and most of my family likes it, too. (Last born may be a hold-out, come to think of it, since this recipe features a green vegetable.)

Broccoli-Cheese Soup

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 onion, chopped

About 2 pounds frozen chopped broccoli (Buy enough packaged broccoli to come close to or equal that amount. If you end up with slightly more than 2 pounds, use it all here anyway.)

2 teaspoons baking soda dissolved in 7 cups water

8 teaspoons chicken base (which equals 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons by volume, or 48 grams by weight)

2/3 cup cornstarch combined with 1 cup water (which makes a slurry)

2 pounds Velveeta processed cheese, cubed

2 cups half & half (or whole milk)

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

1. In a stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook until softened and translucent.  Stir in the frozen broccoli, then pour in the mixture of water and baking soda. Bring to a simmer, and cook until the broccoli is tender, about 10-15 minutes. (Extract a couple of broccoli florets at this point to slice and use for garnish; set aside.) For smoothest soup texture, purée the contents of the stockpot with an immersion blender. If you prefer a chunky soup, do not purée, but make sure the broccoli pieces are bite-sized. (Snip them right in the pot with kitchen scissors, if necessary.)

2. Stir in the cornstarch slurry. The soup will thicken very quickly.

3. Reduce heat to medium-low. Dissolve the garlic powder in the half & half or milk, then pour into the soup. (If you add the garlic powder directly to the soup, it won’t dissipate and will instead form aggravating pockets of powder, which is not appetizing. Ask me how I know.) Add the cubes of Velveeta processed cheese. Stir frequently until the Velveeta melts completely and the soup is heated through. Serve, garnished with slices of cooked broccoli. Also nice: a shower of grated cheddar cheese.

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