J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is an MIT grad who discovered pretty quickly in college that cooking was his calling. He's a self-described nerd who has years of restaurant cooking experience, was an editor at Cook's Illustrated, and is now the Managing Culinary Director of Serious Eats. He just published his first book, based on his weekly column with the same name, The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science.
Lopez-Alt is equal parts scientist and home cook. He uses chemistry to explain why his fried chicken is the crispiest, his biscuits the flakiest, and his potato-cooking technique the best. He explains all the knife skills you need, which tools are essential, and even how to rig a sous-vide machine at home with a beer cooler. Even better, though, he applies the same rigorous testing to the kind of food that you’ll actually cook on a weeknight.
Here is a thoroughly researched, healthier version (thanks to roux and not heavy cream for thickening) of the classic soup. It comes together pretty fast (science again: the baking soda cuts down the broccoli cooking time by two-thirds), and you can poach the eggs and make the croutons while the soup is simmering. You can make the meal vegetarian — or not — and even poach eggs ahead of time if it's easier (not as gross as it sounds).
Creamy Broccoli-Parmesan Soup with Perfect Poached Eggs
Ingredients for the soup
- 5 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 medium onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)
- 4 medium stalks celery, finely diced (about 1 cup)
- 2 medium cloves garlic, minced or grated on a microplane (about 2 tsp)
- 4 anchovy filets, finely chopped (optional)
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups homemade or low-sodium canned chicken stock or vegetable stock, plus more if necessary
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 12 cups broccoli florets, stems, and stalks cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1 large head)
- 3 ounces parmigiano-reggiano, grated
- 2 tbsp lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 slices hearty white sandwich bread, crusts removed and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- Melt 3 tbsp of the butter in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are softened but not browned, about 5 minutes (reduce the heat if the butter begins to brown). Stir in anchovies, if using, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until all the flour is absorbed, about 30 seconds. Stirring constantly, slowly pour in the milk, followed by the stock. Stir in the baking soda and broccoli florets and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the florets are completely tender and olive green, about 20 minutes.
- Working in batches, transfer the mixture to a blender, add the parmesan, and blend, staring on low speed and gradually increasing to high, until completely smooth, about 1 minute; add additional stock or water if necessary to thin to the desired consistency (Lopez-Alt likes his thick). Pass through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean pot. (Alternatively, us an immersion blender to puree the soup directly in the original pot.) Whisk in the lemon juice and season the soup to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm.
- Melt the remaining 2 tbsp of butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When the foaming subsides, add the bread cubes and cook, tossing frequently, until golden brown on all sides, about 6 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Serve the soup garnished with the croutons and an egg.
Ingredients for poached eggs
- 3 quarts water
- 2 tbsp kosher salt
- large eggs (as many as desired)
- Combine the water and the salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to the lowest setting.
- Carefully break the eggs into individual small bowls or cups. Carefully tip one egg into a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl and allow the excess white to drain, swirling the strainer gently. You should be left with the yolk surrounded by tight egg white. Gently lower the strainer into the water, then tilt the egg out into the water, Repeat with the remaining eggs.
- Allow the eggs to cook, swirling the water occasionally to keep them moving lazily around the pan and gently turning them, until the whites are fully set but the yolks are still runny, about 4 minutes.
- To serve immediately, pick up the eggs one at a time with a perforated spoon and transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain briefly. Serve.
- Or, to save the eggs for later, pick up the eggs one at a time with a perforated spoon and transfer to a bowl of cold water to chill, then store submerged in the water in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To reheat, transfer to a bowl of hot water and allow to stand until warm, about 15 minutes.