Broccoli Cheddar Soup
(from Smitten Kitchen)
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped small
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup half-and-half
4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 - 2 bay leaves
4 cups broccoli florets and stems, chopped small (about two small to medium heads)
1 cup diced carrots (1 big or 2 small)
8 ounces coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheddar cheese (note: this soup is very cheesy. You could probably cut back to 6 ounces cheese without losing any flavour - although it was wonderful like this!)
Melt the butter in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook until golden, 3 to 4 minutes, then gradually whisk in the half-and-half until smooth. Add the chicken broth, bay leaves, and salt and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
Add the broccoli and carrots to the broth mixture and simmer until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and adjust seasoning if needed, but err on the cautious side with the salt because the cheese will add a bit. Puree the soup to the consistency you like - chunky or completely smooth - with an immersion blender. Add cheese, put back on the stove, and whisk until melted, about a minute.
Serve with homemade croutons or extra grated cheese (optional). The soup is also terrific just on its own.