2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups half-and-half
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 bay leaf
2 cups water
Freshly ground pepper
2 cups chopped broccoli florets
1 1/2 cups sharp yellow cheddar cheese, shredded, plus extra for topping
Croutons, for topping
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and celery; cook, stirring until softened, about 5 minutes. Add chicken broth, half-and-half, potatoes, bay leaf, 2 cups water, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper and bring to boil.
Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, season broccoli with salt, cover, and microwave until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes.
When potatoes are tender, turn off the heat and remove the bay leaf from the soup. Puree soup with a hand blender until smooth. Thin with water if necessary. Return soup to a simmer over medium-low heat. Stir in broccoli and season with salt and pepper.
Add cheese and stir until melted. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with croutons, extra shredded cheese and even some raw broccoli, if desired. Serves 4.
Adapted from Food Network magazine, October 2011