Overnight Broccoli-Cheese Soup

Overnight Broccoli-Cheese Soup
Of course you don’t have to make this recipe overnight; it’s just a slow cooker recipe, after all.  But it CAN be made overnight, and finished quickly in the morning, just in time to fill up the Thermoses for school and work.

 Broccoli Stock:
6 cups roughly chopped broccoli stalks
2 medium onions, peeled and roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup loosely packed kale or spinach leaves
4 medium carrots, in 1-inch chunks
About 2 cups pumpkin puree – a 15-oz. can would be fine
1 ½ tsp. dried dill
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
8 cups water

6 cups roughly chopped broccoli florets

Bechamel:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour (any variety; whole-wheat would work fine)
1 ½ cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
pinch ground nutmeg
salt and pepper, to taste
3 cups shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

In the bottom of a slow cooker, combine all the ingredients for the broccoli stock (broccoli stalks through water.  Be sure to EXCLUDE the chopped florets!).  Cover and cook on LOW for 10-12 hours.

When the stock has finished simmering, use an immersion blender to puree the vegetables until the stock is of a uniform smooth consistency, with no large chunks of vegetables remaining.  Add the 6 cups of chopped broccoli florets to the stock and cover.  Allow the broccoli to steam in the liquid for about 10 minutes, until crisp-tender.
While the broccoli is cooking, melt the butter in a medium saucepan.  Whisk in the flour to form a paste; cook, whisking, for 1-2 minutes.  Gradually pour in the milk and cream, whisking constantly to avoid lumps.  Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Cook for 2 minutes to thicken, then add the cheese.  Once the cheese is melted, pour the béchamel mixture into the contents of the slow cooker and stir thoroughly to combine.  Taste, adjust seasonings, and serve hot.

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