Anyway, every month in Food Network Magazine they have an article called "Copy That!" where they remake some chain restaurant's famous dish. For the January/February 2010 issue, the dish was Panera's Broccoli Cheddar Soup. I'm a big fan of this soup, but it's surprisingly not vegetarian (they use chicken broth), so while soup from Panera is a common lunch for me, I didn't get to indulge in this soup this month. I didn't have to mourn for too long, though, because the issue came early in the month and the recipe is adaptable enough - just replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth and voila! A vegetarian version!
My only complaint, if I had to have one, was that the leftovers thickened up considerably, but I have no idea how to prevent that, and it thinned out a little when reheated. It was enough, though (seriously, you could scoop it out with an ice cream scoop and it would have held form), that Aaron was kind of grossed out by it and wouldn't partake in leftovers.
The deliciousness on the first night was enough to make up for the later on weirdness, so I would still totally recommend you make this.
Adapted from Food Network Magazine, Jan/Feb 2010
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. half-and-half
3 c. low-sodium vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
salt and pepper
4 c. broccoli florets
1 large carrot, diced
8 oz. grated cheddar cheese, plus more for garnish if desired
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the flour and cook until golden, 3 to 4 minutes, then gradually whisk in the half-and-half until smooth. Add the vegetable broth, bay leaves, and nutmeg, then season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, until thickened, about 20 minutes
Add the broccoli and carrot to the pot and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Discard the bay leaves. Puree the soup using an immersion blender (or in batches in a standing blender). Add the cheese by handfuls into the soup, whisking over medium heat until melted before adding in the next handful. Add up to 3/4 c. water if the soup is too thick. Serve with crusty bread and butter.