Cauliflower Soup (a tasty but embarrassing tale)

Last night, in the mood for some comfort food, I made some cauliflower soup.  I didn’t invent the recipe, and it is such a straightforward recipe that it seems odd to “credit” anyone with it, but in the interest of being upfront, I was inspired by this David Lieberman recipe which I found by way of Smitten Kitchen (who is awesome, read her).  My adaptations, however, were inspired by Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, who has taught me many things, among them, to always roast rather than boil, even for soups — per this example.  (Sadly, I have not yet acquired the fortitude, nor a large enough stockpot, to actually make my own chicken stock, as she is constantly urging.)

Before I get into the recipe, just a note.  It occurred to me upon re-reading the Olive Oil Muffins post that although my narration interwoven with the recipe was hopefully an entertaining story, it doesn’t really make it easy for readers to use the recipe in their own kitchens.  Perhaps it would be better to do a straightforward recipe and annotate it after?  I’ll keep experimenting, but let me know what you think works best.  (Having not received any comments yet, that “you” is rather on the hopeful side, I know.)

Ingredients:

1 head cauliflower
extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped*
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart low-sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup grated Parmesan**
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dollop of creme fraiche (optional)***

Notes on Ingredients:

*I love onion, and often have large ones on hand.  I’ve never had a bad experience using too much onion, as it of course cooks down substantially, so go ahead and use a larger one if you want.  I also love other forms of onion, such as leeks and shallots, and often substitute based on what I have on hand, and may use more than one type of onion at a time.

** I used the real thing — parmigiano reggiano.  I also HATE grating it.  But I have a new food processor and grated it in a few seconds, using the smallest work bowl.  Given that it was just cheese and nothing oily or messy, there was almost no clean-up.

***I don’t normally have this in the house, but I bought it for another recipe that I haven’t made yet.  It was my own inspiration to drop a bit on top, and I recommend it if you really like creme fraiche.  I didn’t love it or hate it and will likely skip it with the leftovers.

Directions:

1.  Remove the leaves and thick core from the cauliflower, coarsely chop, and reserve.  If you’ve never cut a whole cauliflower before, this may help.  If you’re lazy (or, let’s say, TOO BUSY), Whole Foods often sells it pre-chopped.  Spread florets out on a half-sheet pan (line with tin foil to speed clean-up).  Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt (lots if you are using Diamond Crystal) and pepper, and cook at 400 degrees for about half an hour, until tender.

2.  When the cauliflower is about half done, heat some more olive oil in a large dutch oven, saucepan or soup pot over medium heat and add the onion and garlic. Cook until softened, but not browned, about 5-10 minutes.

3.  Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes total, adding the cauliflower when it is ready*.  It doesn’t matter much how long the cauliflower is in there, as it is already cooked.

4.  Remove from heat and, using a hand held immersion blender**, puree the soup, or puree in small batches in a blender and return it to the pot.

5.  Add the Parmesan and stir until smooth.

6.  Season, to taste, with salt and black pepper***.

Notes:

* If you have a decent amount of cauliflower, feel free to reserve some of the roasted cauliflower and eat it straight.  There will be plenty left for the soup.  Roasted, caramelized veggies.  Yum.

** I used an immersion blender in my Le Creuset dutch oven, which always makes me nervous, as I don’t want to scratch the enamel with the shaft of the blender.  But all was well, and this really does cut down on the number of things that need to be washed (and often hand-washed) later.

*** I found that this required a lot of salt, probably because I use Diamond Crystal, but still, don’t just add a couple of teaspoons and be on your way.  Taste, taste, taste.  It needed quite a bit of pepper too.

And, since I know you’re waiting for it, here’s the embarrassing part.  After I was done cooking, I had some soup.  Nice, tasty, nothing spectacular, but it wasn’t a lot of work, either.  I left it over very low heat in case I wanted seconds.  I then forgot that I had left the heat on, and left it in the kitchen to sufficiently cool before refrigerating.  When I finally went in there to put it away, I discovered the heat was on.  As low as it was possible to be, but still on, and with the lid of the cast iron pot on.  It was bubbling away in there, a bit brown, and I felt ridiculous.  The funny thing is, I think it tasted even better, having reduced slowly for more than an hour.  I kept the leftovers.  But I needed baking soda to clean the bottom of my beloved Le Creuset.  Oops.

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