Easiest and Best Cream of Broccoli Soup Recipe
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History of Béchamel Sauce
There are a couple of theories on the origin of the Béchamel sauce. One theory credits Caterina de' Medici, the Italian-born wife of King Henry II of France from 1547 to 1559, with introducing the béchamel, or white, sauce into French cuisine. Another theory credits the Marquis Louis de Béchamel, the chief steward of France's King Louis XIV's household in the 1600s (17th century), with inventing this white sauce. What is definitely known is that in 1651 Chef François Pierre de la Varenne first published Le Cuisinier François, which included the recipe for Béchamel. (La Varenne is known as the father of French haute cuisine and the Béchamel sauce became one of French cuisine's sauces mere, or "mother sauces," those sauces that serve as a base for other sauces (in the case of the Béchamel sauce, it is the "mother" of the Mornay sauce, for example).
- 1/2 stick salted butter
- 3 Tablespoons white flour
- 5 cups 1% milk
- 1 pkg. frozen chopped broccoli
- to taste parmesan cheese, grated
- Place the 1/2 stick of butter in the saucepan where you intend to make the soup.
- Heat the 1/2 stick of butter on low flame/low heat in order to melt it. Do not allow the butter to turn brown! This is the first secret to a creamy white béchamel.
- Slowly add the flour. Note: sprinkle or sift the flour into the melting butter. This will help you avoid lumps. Stir as you sift or sprinkle the flour so that it is absorbed by the butter without browning. This butter and flour paste forms the roux, or the base, of the béchamel.
- When the flour is absorbed by the butter (thanks to your gentle but thorough stirring with a wooden spoon), allow it to cook a little (until the roux separates from the bottom of the pan)...but always without allowing it to brown (or, worse, to burn!).
- Immediately add the milk, while stirring continuously. Note: My grandmother and my mother always scalded the milk first, and swore by using only full-fat, whole milk. However, I have discovered that adding cold milk and/or using 1% or even skim milk, will still yield a thick, creamy and white béchamel sauce. The secret is in adding the milk a little at a time, stirring continuously to ensure that the roux gets thoroughly amalgamated into the milk, in order to avoid lumps.
- Make sure that you are working with a medium-low to low heat and that you stir continuously throughout the entire process. Never leave a béchamel sauce (or milk in general) on a flame or on heat unattended. At best, lumps will form; at worst, your béchamel will stick to the bottom of the pan or the milk will boil over the pot (or both).
- As the milk heats, the roux will thicken it, slowly. (You will be able to feel it thicken as you stir with the wooden spoon.) If your microwave oven is close to your stove top, you can thaw the frozen chopped broccoli in the microwave briefly, while still monitoring your béchamel sauce closely.
- When the milk begins to boil, lift the pot or saucepan off the burner to stop the process a little. Add the thawed broccoli to your sauce and put everything back on the burner. Keep stirring so the soup/sauce does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
- When the sauce/soup begins to hiss up the sides of the pot again, extinguish the flame, shut off the burner, and/or place the pot on a cold burner. Cover and allow the flavors to meld together while you get the bowls ready.
- Serve the soup hot or warm. Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese and dig in! Enjoy!
- Additional note: For a thicker soup, add more flour to the butter when forming the roux. For a thinner soup, add less flour.