Copycat Panera Broccoli Cheese Soup


 Copyright Panera Broccoli Cheese Soup
There are many good things about living in the South.  People open doors for ladies.  You can call people “Puddin” and get away with it.  Bacon is a main food group.
There is one other thing that I love about the South . . . Panera broccoli soup.  OK, OK– you got me.  There are Panera bread restaurants up North, too.  But where I grew up, there wasn’t one.  And when I moved to Virginia and discovered there was a Panera right in town– I was in heaven.  One of their most tantalizing menu items is the broccoli soup– but tragically, my plastic spoon hits the bottom of that little paper cup MUCH too soon.  So I set out to make my own Panera broccoli soup, at home.  And, after many failed or “So-so” attempts, this is the result.  In my humble opinion, it tastes just like Panera . . . and you can have it, at home, anytime, no cup-scraping required 😉
What are we waiting for?  Let’s do this!
Copycat Panera Broccoli Soup (my own original recipe after many, many taste tests– feel free to use and change it up, but please link back here so no one steals my work 🙂
4 tbsp. butter or margarine
1 onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and grated
3 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 tbsp. white wine
12 oz. bag frozen broccoli florets
1/3 cup flour
5 cups whole milk
1.5 “inches” of a Velveeta log
4 tsp. chicken bouillon
a few dashes of ground nutmeg
Directions: Sauté onion, celery, shredded carrots, salt, pepper, and minced garlic until vegetables are tender.  Add in white wine and scrape browned bits from bottom of the pan.  Add in flour and stir until all the butter is soaked up in it.  Add milk and heat on medium low heat until very hot but not boiling, stirring frequently to keep flour from sticking to the bottom.  Add in Velveeta and continue to stir until soup is thick and creamy.  Cook broccoli in microwave until tender and finely chop.  Add chopped broccoli, chicken bouillon, and dash nutmeg and simmer on low for 20 minutes, or until flavors have combined.  Serve immediately.
Now, in pictures! 🙂
First, get yourself a nice, hefty pot or Dutch Oven.  I don’t know why, but cooking in a heavy pot makes me feel powerful– like I have been blessed with the spirits of 1,000 grandmothers.
Put 4 tbsp. of butter into the Dutch Oven and let the butter start to melt over low heat.  Meanwhile, finely dice an onion and add it to the melting butter.  *Caution: INCREDIBLE smells will ensue.  Don’t be surprised if your husband gets down on one knee and asks you to marry him, all over again.
Along with your onions, add the chopped celery, grated carrot, salt, pepper, and minced garlic.  Give the vegetables a good stir and let them cook on medium low heat until they are see-through and tender.  When the vegetables start to run out of liquid, add in your white wine and deglaze the pan (scrape the browned bits off the bottom using the steam that the wine creates).  If you need a little extra liquid as the vegetables cook (some veggies are juicier than others), add a few tbsp. of water to keep things from sticking, until your vegetables are nice and soft.
When your vegetables are see-through and tender, go ahead and add in your flour.  Stir the vegetables into the flour until you get a nice, thick paste.
Gradually add 5 cups of whole milk.  I like to keep the pot on low heat and add a little bit of milk at a time, stirring until the flour mixture kind of “drinks” up the liquid.  That way, your sauce won’t burn.
While you are adding the milk, let’s get the broccoli ready to go.  A little time-saving time for this soup is to use microwaveable frozen broccoli florets.  Microwave the bag until your broccoli is tender, then use a sharp knife to chop it up all nice and fine (“Feelin’ mighty fine . . .”).  Just let that broccoli sit there for a minute until you’re ready for it.  It’s patient– it won’t go anywhere.
 When you have added all of your milk, go ahead and add in the 1.5 “inches” of Velveeta.  I’m not sure how else to describe how much I used– but you get the idea.  Continue stirring the soup as it heats and the cheese melts– scrape the bottom periodically to make sure your flour isn’t trying to stick there.  As the soup heats, it will keep getting thicker and loooooovely.  Mmm.  It’s so beautiful.
 When your soup is the thickness that you want, go ahead and add the chicken bouillon (or 4 chicken bouillon cubes, if you’d rather), and a dash of nutmeg.  That weird looking little brown speck/dust cloud thing up there is my pinch of nutmeg.  You basically just one 1-2 “shakes,” or a little finger pinch of it.  We don’t want an overpowering flavor– just enough to give the soup a little nuttiness.  And you thought there were enough nuts in this house!  Haha.
Now go ahead and add the chopped broccoli. Give everything a good stir and let the soup simmer on low, for about 20 minutes, until the broccoli is heated back up and the spices have had a chance to mellow out a little.
 Copycat Panera Broccoli Cheese Soup
 Serve your soup up in some homemade bread bowls, or with a  loaf of crusty bread.  Sprinkle each bowl with some shredded cheddar cheese and a few extra broccoli pieces, if you want.
Copycat Panera Broccoli Cheese Soup
 Have a nice, steaming bowlful– and then have another.
Your Mom always said that it’s good to eat your vegetables.  Hehe.
You did it.  And I’m just so proud of you.

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