BROCCOLI, RED PEPPER, AND CHEDDAR CHOWDER

1 head broccoli
6 oz. sharp Cheddar, coarsely grated (1-1/2 cups)
1 large boiling potato
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 Tbs. minced fresh thyme
1 tsp. salt 1 large onion, chopped
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
3/4 cup heavy cream

Discard tough lower third of broccoli stem. Peel remaining stem and finely chop. Cut remaining broccoli into very small (1-inch) florets. Cook florets in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking, then drain. Reserve 3 cups cooking water for chowder. Peel potato and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Cook potato, onion, bell pepper, broccoli stems, thyme and garlic in butter in a 3- to 4-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add cumin, salt, pepper, and mustard and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add flour and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add reserved cooking water and simmer (partially covered), stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in cream and cheese and cook, stirring, until cheese is melted, then season with salt and pepper. Puree about 2 cups of chowder in a blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids) and return to pot. Add florets and cook over med. heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 2 minutes.

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