The best part about the holidays has to be the surprises. Glancing at that bulging stocking as it gets stuffed throughout the month. Wishing for Superman's X-ray vision as you secretly and silently investigate those wrapped and bowed boxes from across the room. The news that so-and-so is coming home when you least expected it. Headlines that Santa really does exist seem somehow completely believable in a season where surprise is the rule of engagement.
Right now, I am back in Florida, where I spent some time growing up, celebrating the holidays amidst bedazzled palm trees, on the verge of a melt down--or rather, a freeze up. I suppose 'tis the season for a white Christmas, but anticipated wind chills below 20 degrees in Palm Beach? Now, that's a surprise.
It's a soup night. A warm, creamy, steam-your-bones soup night. For my version of the ever-comforting broccoli and cheese soup, I replace our American yellow cheddar with buttery, distinctive French brie. The result is a soup that is luscious, hearty, a bit hedonistic, and definitely, with that taste of melted brie in the background, full of surprises.
I always thought Hell would freeze over before I saw frost in Florida. But if Florida can freeze, Hell might be next. Here's to keeping surprisingly warm. Bon app!
Broccoli and Brie Soup
1½ pounds broccoli florets
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
Fine sea salt
1 clove garlic, grated
Freshly cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2¼ cups low-sodium chicken broth, preferably organic
2¼ cups whole milk
6 ounces brie
¼ cup heavy cream
1. Add one quarter of the broccoli to a food processor, and run the machine until the broccoli is very finely chopped. Remove the chopped broccoli to a large bowl, and repeat 3 more times until all the broccoli is finely chopped. Set aside.
2. In a large soup pot with a lid, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions, and season lightly with salt. Sweat, stirring often, over medium heat for 2 minutes, until the onions are just softened and fragrant.
3. Add the broccoli and garlic to the onions. Season with salt and pepper. Lower heat to low to medium-low, and cook covered for 5 minutes.
4. Remove the lid from the pot, and stir in 2 tablespoons flour, until well distributed. Cook 1 to 2 minutes, just to remove the raw flour taste, stirring continuously.
5. Add the chicken stock and the milk. Raise the heat to high until the liquid boils. Immediately reduce heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer 15 minutes. The broccoli should be completely cooked, and the soup slightly thickened.
6. Cut the rind off the brie, and cut the brie into small chunks. Add the brie and cream to the pot. Cover, and cook over the lowest heat for just 2 minutes to melt the cheese. Use a whisk to incorporate the melted cheese into the soup. Serve immediately.
To garnish with a garlic baguette crouton like the one in the picture, preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut 4 ¼-inch slices of baguette. Lightly brush both sides of the baguette slices with garlic-infused olive oil, and sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake 15 minutes, until crisp. Float on the hot soup.