If cooking were a religion, the soupmaking would, no doubt, be one of its greatest sacred rites. Soup is a quest for perfection, a mystical transformational and peacemaking ritual through which ingredients, different in color, texture, density and flavor are compelled to slowly reveal their essence, enrich one another, and enter the state of harmony.
The beauty of soupmaking is in the journey. Equipped with just a few basic rules and a handful of kitchen tools, you can vary your path to perfection in an infinite number of ways. Ironically, the curse of soupmaking lies in the very same thing: there is no single list of steps to reach that elusive perfection, and having experienced one, you don’t always know how you got there. Writing the recipe down isn’t always enough. Incoming ingredients, their unique properties in a particular batch play major role. Personal taste, your mood, even weather outside your kitchen window can alter the experience substantially. Quite possibly, this is why there are so many books written about soups, and there are so many slight variations of the seemingly same recipe out there…
Today’s batch features broccoli. Of course, one can’t live on broccoli alone, so I gave it a few flavorful sidekicks, namely potatoes (for substance) and cheese (for added flavor). I wonder who determined that cheddar is the best cheese to go with broccoli? I imagine, they had a whole list of cheeses to try in a broccoli soup, and the first successful one was cheddar, so they said “that’s it, from now on Cheddar is the cheese”. I don’t particularly like cheddar, maybe for the very reason that it’s being overused, or maybe because it tends to overpower anything you add it to. Whatever the reason, I think other cheeses are well worth trying in a soup such as this one. I happened to have some raw milk Gruyere on hand, and having tried that one in a soup, I am now a believer that Gruyere is just as good a companion to broccoli.
I also believe that you don’t have to add cream to the soup to make it creamy. While I like cream, I don’t think it’s completely necessary to finish the soup. You can add a tablespoon of butter for the richer taste, or skip it altogether — again, only you alone know what makes the soup perfect for you.
Here is the What and How, for this batch:
Creamy Broccoli Soup
- 1-2 thick slices of bacon, or salt pork, diced or cut into strips
- 1 large carrot, chunked or diced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 5 small red potatoes with skin, quartered
- 1 large cluster of broccoli, stem and all, coarsely chopped
- 4-6 cups of chicken stock (depends greatly on the volume of the vegetables)
- 1 bay leaf
- 10 peppercorns, crushed
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
- salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- about 1/2 cup of grated raw milk Gruyere
You will need a blender to make this soup.
Heat the Dutch oven or a thick bottom soup pot over medium flame. Toss in the bacon strips and cook for a few minutes, until fat renders and bacon is nicely browned.
Add onions, carrots and thyme. Stir well and let vegetables release their juices (2-3 minutes).
Add potatoes and broccoli to the pot, pour in the stock to cover the vegetables. Add crushed pepper, bay leaf and white pepper. Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to simmer, season to taste, cover and cook for about 15 minutes, or until potatoes are very soft.
Remove from heat. Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Puree the soup in a blender (you may have to process it in batches) and return to the pot.
Add cheese slowly, constantly stirring until dissolved and smooth.