1/2 c. minced white onion
1 large clove garlic, minced (optional)
4 Tbsp. butter
1-2 tsp. salt
Pepper to taste
7 Tbsp. flour
6 cups 2% milk (see variation below - I've started using whole milk and it works great)
1/2 tsp. sweet curry powder (see variation below), optional
3 cups shredded sharp or extra sharp cheddar cheese
Cook the broccoli in a large covered Dutch oven on the stove in a small amount of water until broccoli is tender, but not falling apart. Drain and remove from Dutch oven and set aside. Rinse out the Dutch oven and dry.
Melt the butter in the Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook until tender. Add salt and pepper and stir. Slowly stir in the flour, incorporating it into the butter one tablespoon at a time. Once the flour is all added, it will be a thick paste.
Add two cups of the milk and whisk the butter-flour mixture until no lumps appear. Add the remainder of the milk and stir well. Continue stirring until milk-flour mixture comes to a boil, Do not boil. At this point, the mixture may be a thinner, but remove from heat. Add the curry powder if using and shredded cheese. Cheese should melt quickly. Stir until all melted. Return to the heat and turn burner to low or medium low. Add the cooked broccoli. If you like it chunky, do not chop the broccoli -- if you want smaller pieces, just chop the broccoli before adding to the cheese soup base.
Heat mixture, but do not boil. Always stir the soup so it doesn't scorch the pan. Adjust the seasoning and serve soup with a sprinkle of freshly grated cheddar cheese on top. This soup tastes great if made ahead and reheated. If you reheat the soup, remember to stir it constantly. It will be very thick when it is cold, but it will liquify once heated. Serves about 6-8 people if you only eat one bowl of soup!
Replace 1 1/2 cups of milk with a 14.5 oz. can of low-sodium chicken broth. Use the chicken broth first and then add the milk. You can also replace the 2% milk with whole milk or half and half when you use the stock to make a richer, creamier texture.
Spice Variation: Replace the curry powder with nutmeg.
Note: you can also add cut up carrot with the broccoli (I used about 1/2 cup). This cheese soup base also works for any vegetable, including potatoes, mixed vegetables, cauliflower, etc.