In most cases, broccoli soup isn’t necessarily something that would make a person emotional. In my case, though, it triggers some wonderful memories of childhood, my beloved Grandparents, and falling in love with restaurants and dining for the first time.
My mom’s parents, who both now live in their Heavenly home, were very special to me. Like a lot of lucky families, we were fortunate enough to live in the same city as they, and therefore saw them often. They were my and my brothers’ (and cousins’) go-to babysitters, and it was magical. It was Grandma who instilled in me a love for cooking. She taught me how to bake bread, how to make homemade pasta, and the importance of family gathering around the dinner table. My Grandpa was a quiet and gentle man, bursting with love and one-liners that still make me laugh when I remember them. He was my “big twerp”, I his “little twerp”.
Their means were humble, and going out to eat at a restaurant was a very special treat. One that they loved to lavish on my cousin, Jackie, and I. They would take us to an old restaurant in Fresno that, sadly, closed down several years ago. The Peppermill. To Jackie and I, it was the fanciest, most special place in the world. We’d order Shirley Temples that came in tall cocktail glasses, complete with an enormous skewer of fruit and paper umbrella. We thought we were royalty. My favorite item on the menu was Broccoli Soup. An odd choice for a kid, in hindsight, but it was creamy and delicious, and I don’t actually remember ordering anything else from that menu. I just loved it. I loved everything about those trips to The Peppermill.
This is my version of that Creamy Broccoli Soup. I think of my sweet Grandparents every time I make it, and smile. It also gives me a craving for a really good Shirley Temple.
4 T. bacon fat (or butter)
6 c. chopped broccoli (about 3 crowns)
4 ribs celery, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 chicken boullion cube
6 c. chicken stock
1 c. heavy whipping cream
Juice from 1 lemon
3 T. butter, cubed
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 c. butter, cubed
1/3 c. all purpose flour
Prepare all vegetables. Broccoli crowns obviously vary in size, but I have found that one standard sized crown equals about 2 cups chopped. Don’t toss your stems! The stems of broccoli are packed with flavor and so often discarded. Just trim a bit off the bottom and chop up the rest! No need for beautiful cuts on your vegetables, everything will be pureed later.
Sauté onion in bacon fat over medium/high heat until onion begins to brown slightly. Add garlic and sauté until you start to smell garlic in the air. Yum.
Add broccoli and celery, cook until they’ve started to soften. Sautéing them this way before adding liquid will bring out the most flavor
Add chicken stock and bouillon cube. Simmer until vegetables are very soft. Keep in mind that you’re actually trying to “overcook” the vegetables- something that can be difficult for someone like myself who fears a soggy veggie.
While vegetables are simmering, make your roux.
On low/medium low heat, melt cubed butter. I cube the butter here again because it will melt more quickly and more evenly.
Once the butter is melted, whisk in the flour until you have a paste.
Cook the roux for just about a minute, whisking around the pan, to get the raw flour taste out, then remove from heat and set aside
*Note: I love my immersion blender. My mom bought it sometime in the early 90’s, I stole it from her several years ago, and it’s still going strong. If you don’t have one, though, no big deal! You can do this step in a blender. Just be very, very careful. One of my worst cooking-related injuries came from an incorrectly placed lid on a blender with hot lobster bisque inside. Ouch.
When vegetables are falling apart tender, remove soup from heat and blend until smooth
*Note: If using a traditional blender, this is when you’ll return your blended soup to the pot
Return to heat, and whisk in roux a tablespoon at a time until you’ve reached your desired consistency. I used all of the roux except about a tablespoon.
Add cream and red pepper flakes. This is also a good time to check for seasoning. Salt and pepper accordingly
Add lemon juice and butter, stir to combine until butter is melted
Serve with buttery, crusty bread and enjoy! If desired, garnish with sour cream and Pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds). Shirley Temples optional.