You might not think it gets cold here in Southern Arizona, but it does. Not the bone-numbing cold of the upper midwest, but we will have a few nights below freezing each winter. (Yes, we know all you Minnesotans are laughing at us right now. It’s okay; we don’t mind). When this happens, our minds turn toward soup as a warming meal.
We’d just picked up a large head of cauliflower, so it seemed as if cream of cauliflower soup would be perfect. Plus, after a bit of rumination, we remembered that Thomas Keller had published a recipe for Cream of Cauliflower Soup in Ad Hoc at Home. Well, we don’t have a copy of the book, but we do have a crack team of Internet sleuths on the staff at Scratchin’ Central. We were in business. We will note that we cut the recipe in half from the original, and omitted the fried beet chips (If you want to add those, fry thin slices of beets in an inch of 350°F canola oil for 3 to 5 minutes).
We like to use organic milk and cream, as they don’t have added ingredients (like diglycerides to thicken). Now, you might be thinking, do I really need to use leeks? Well, we won’t judge, but we do think that leeks are about the best-tasting alliums around and are particularly good in soups. We bought one especially for the soup. For the curry powder, it’s just a pinch, perhaps 1/8 of a teaspoon, so it doesn’t matter as to brand or variety. You might think that you can omit it safely, but it does add something to the flavor. Trust us. Finally, the teaspoon of vinegar; it’s there to keep the florets a bright white.
Procedure in detail:
Chop vegetables. This part is great when you’re making a cream soup. The size and shape of the pieces doesn’t matter much, so roughly chop up the leek and the onion, then core the cauliflower and cut it into pieces, too. Remember to pick through the cauliflower pieces and reserve about a cup of florets that are around 1/2 inch in diameter.
Cook cauliflower. Melt 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, add the leeks, onions, cauliflower pieces, salt, and curry powder. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes, or until everything is tender. We stirred the mixture occasionally, partly because we were worried about burning, and partly just because it’s a lot of cauliflower.
Add liquids. Once tender, add the water, milk, and heavy cream. Increase the heat to medium-high to bring to a boil.
Simmer. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, and skimming off foam as needed, for about 30 minutes. This will make sure that everything is nice and tender. After 30 minutes, remove from the heat and let cool about 10 minutes.
Blanch. While the soup is simmering, let’s get back to those reserved florets. Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the vinegar so they’ll stay bright white, and, once everything is at a rolling boil, add the florets. Boil until mostly tender, about 3 to 5 minutes, then drain thoroughly.
Blend. Working in batches, if necessary, transfer soup to a blender and blend until very smooth. Remember to vent the lid while blending so you don’t have the lid pop off and end up with hot soup everywhere (who said cooking isn’t living life on the edge?). After blending, strain into a clean saucepan (we quickly washed out the pan we used) to ensure you have the smoothest soup possible. Place the soup over very low heat to keep warm.
Sauté. Melt the remaining butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the florets and cook until light brown spots begin to form, then either add to the soup, or reserve to add to each bowl.
Season. Taste the soup and add salt and pepper to your taste.
Serve. Dish soup into bowls and top with florets (unless you stirred them in, as we did) and croutons.
What a way to end this year of posting: with perhaps the best cauliflower soup you’ll ever have. Really. Over the last couple of years, we’ve tried a number of recipes from Thomas Keller’s books or ones that we’ve found online, and we’ve found that each is excellent; while some are involved (not this one), they’re manageable at home and well worth the effort. If you’re looking for one to try, this might just be it, as it’s quite easy to put together, making this soup worthy of a full five stars.