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Cheesy Broccoli and Hashbrown Soup

1/2 lb. sliced bacon, chopped
1 med. onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
3 T. butter
3 T. all purpose flour
5 C. chicken stock
12 oz. frozen chopped broccoli
4 C. frozen shredded hashbrowns
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 C. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 C. cream
1/8 tsp. ground mustard
1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper
Fry the bacon till crisp in a dutch oven. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate and drain off all but 2 T. of the bacon grease. Over med. high heat add the onions, celery and carrots to the pan. Cook for 5-6 minutes to soften. Add the butter and flour to the pan, cooking till butter is melted and flour is combine. Add the broth and bring up to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and add the broccoli and hashbrowns to the pot. Toss in the bay leaf and garlic, cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the bay leaf and using an immersion blender puree' the soup just a little. You can use a blender for this to just pureeing half of the soup and then returning it to the pot. Stir in the cream, cheese and remaining seasonings. Cook for 5 minutes and serve with bacon as a garnish on top. Approx. 5-6 servings

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