Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Copycat Panera Broccoli Soup and a bowl of Homemade Caesar Salad with Croutons and Parmesan Crisps

How is that for a mouthful of a title, eh? Well it is only 7 AM-ish in the morning and I have only had one cup of coffee so far, so that is about the best my brain can come up with at this hour, forgive me.

Last night I tried out a recipe I found for Copycat Panera Bread Broccoli Soup. When I used to live in Connecticut, there was a little Panera Bread shop right next to the video game store. Since I am also an avid gamer, I spent a lot of time perusing the shelves, looking for great deals on used games and to see what new things had just been released. And of course while I was there I just had to stop in and see what Panera was serving as the soup of the day. How could I possibly resist when you could smell their bread baking all the way down the street?

I usually ordered a cup of soup when I stopped in and although I can't actually remember if I sampled their version of Broccoli soup or not (although it is very likely since I love broccoli soup), I do remember loving all of the soups I did try. Their soups were always hearty and rich and wipe-the-bowl-clean-with-your-hunk-of-bread good. So I was pretty excited to find a recipe that claimed to be a copycat of one of their soups.

The recipe was quite easy to follow really, just a simple matter of making a roux, adding in some half and half and chicken stock and letting it reduce a while, then steeping some broccoli, carrots, and sauteed onions until they soften and meld with the base of the soup, and finishing it off with a handful of grated Cheddar cheese and a dusting of nutmeg. Rich velvety comfort on a spoon. It was so hard to not go for another serving. My daughter was unfortunately less impressed, although she did eat every bit of hers as well.

To accompany the soup, or rather, to devour while hungrily waiting for the soup to cool, I made a Caesar Salad. I had been watching one of my favorite YouTube cooking channels, Betty's Kitchen, and she had been doing a three part demo series on Caesar Salad. This reminded me that I had not made my version of this classic salad in a really long time. You can find the recipe here. I did however, make Betty's Buttery Croutons, which were simply buttered stale bread (I used honey wheat) that get toasted in the oven and stirred occasionally until they are crisp and golden. I skimped a little too much on the butter, so mine turned out more like plain toast cubes than croutons, but they were still crunchy and tasted fine.

I also made Betty's Parmesan Cheese crisps, which are just grated Parmesan melted in the oven until they become thin little crispy wafers, to adorn the finished salad. I had seen this done on other cooking shows as well and just hadn't gotten around to trying it myself before. What an easy and tasty garnish - very elegant. I would certainly make these again.

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