Cauliflower soup with breadcrumbs

April 11, 2010 § 2 Comments

I need a show of hands if you watch “30 Rock” please.  Oh good.  The rest of you, I highly recommend checking it on Hulu as it is beyond a shadow of a doubt in my mind the funniest show ever.  Or maybe it just suits me to a T because my mind tends to be really random and/or sarcastic, like the show.  But, suffice it to say, Joel teases me because every time we watch it I start laughing during the opening credits and, quite literally, don’t stop until after it’s over.  Anyway, there’s an episode where Tina Fey’s character sees a very handsome man, and what she says to herself is, “I want to go to there.” (which is incredibly funny when it’s Tina Fey who is saying it, maybe not quite as funny written down.  darn.)  Now, I find myself doing the very same thing, except instead of men, I do it with food!  I see a picture or the title of a recipe or something on a menu, and my mind pipes up, “I want to go to there!” which translates into, “I would really like to try cooking that myself.”   And I start daydreaming about what I would need to slice up and stir in and what fun twist I might add.

Most recently this happened with a cauliflower soup – of all things, right!?  I was typing references into a bibliographic reference manager (mind numbing work!), and somehow I found myself not doing it anymore, and instead browsing through pictures of food (this impulse might be borderline pathological) wondering about what I might want to cook for supper, and then I saw a pretty image labeled cauliflower soup.  The following internal dialogue ensued:  “I want to go to there!”  “But you don’t even really like soup very much, and you don’t know how to make cauliflower soup.” “Yeah, but remember that one time you had cauliflower veloute at 10 Tables and it was amazing?  You could do that.”  “It requires blending the soup.  Do you remember what happened the last time you blended soup?”  “Well, the walls needed cleaning anyway.  And, you’ve had worse burns than that…what if I’m reeeeeaaally careful?” “Well, I guess there is a cauliflower in the fridge that needs using.”  “Ha, I knew it!  Onwards and upwards.”  And so I made up a cauliflower soup.

I’d only had cauliflower soup once before (and it was called veloute because it was a fancy restaurant, but I knew it was soup, they can’t fool me!) but it was wonderfully creamy and delicious.  It also had a gratuitously large chunk of bacon in it, which definitely didn’t hurt the flavor.  I wish I’d had some bacon to add to my soup, but I didn’t, so I made some buttery cheesey breadcrumbs instead, since I’d seen pictures of creamy soups sprinkled with bread crumbs before.  Totally a good idea!  They may have even been the best part of the soup.  Croutons with cheese melted on top also would be really good.

I figured a cauliflower soup would basically require the same things as any other soup, namely a sautéed onion and broth.  I figured it could also use some cream and blending to make it, well, creamy and smooth, if you must know.  I also threw in some garlic and shallot that I had for extra flavor, a couple potatoes I had lying around that I figured would thicken it extra, a little sprinkle of cayenne and a curl of lemon peel zest because I’m currently extremely obsessed with lemon zest and thought it would be a nice counterpoint to the creaminess, and I melted in some cheese at the end for even more flavor.  I also cooked it up with a dash of herbes de Provence, which honestly I only added because I had just bought it to cook a chicken with and wanted to use some more.  It was good but probably didn’t need it.  You could try it without herbs, or else with some other herbs (mostly I’m thinking of dill because I’ve had it in other creamy soups).  I was very careful with the blender, and – miracle! – managed not to have any disasters!

So, if you want to go to there:

Creamy cauliflower soup (serves 2, and easily doubles)

  • A couple Tablespoons of butter or olive oil
  • ½ head of cauliflower, florets removed from the stem
  • 1 onion
  • 1 shallot
  • a couple cloves of garlic
  • 2 small potatoes, sliced up into small chunks (this is totally optional.  Also, I almost used some parsnips instead, which I bet would’ve been quite good because they would have added a little sweetness)
  • about 2 cups of broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • a curl of lemon zest, optional (use a vegetable peeler to peel it off, making sure not to get any of the bitter white part)
  • A dash of cayenne
  • A pinch of herbes de Provence, optional
  • a hefty pour’s worth of cream (and I mean really hefty – it probably wound up being about ½ cup.  If that scandalizes you, use milk 🙂 or you can even skip the dairy entirely and it will still be pretty creamy once you blend it, courtesy of the cauliflower and potatoes)
  • a handful of grated or crumbled cheese of your choice , preferably something a bit pungent– I used several Tbs. Parmesan and several Tbs. soft goat cheese, but what I was really wishing for was crumbled blue cheese (gorgonzola, for example).  You could also even skip the cheese and use only some herbs for flavor and let the cauliflower shine through.  I guess that would be if you’re super into cauliflower.
  • ¼ cup bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbs. butter or olive oil
  • a sprinkling of Parmesan
  1. Peel and chop the onion and the shallot.  Peel and mince the garlic.  Melt a couple Tbs. of butter (or use olive oil) in a large saucepan, then add the onion, shallot, and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, until softening. 
  2. Next, add the cauliflower and the potato chunks, sprinkle with the cayenne the lemon zest and any other spices you wish to use, stir and let cook for a couple of minutes.  Pour in the broth, bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, cover and cook until the cauliflower and potato are soft, about 20 minutes. 
  3. In the meantime, melt another Tbs. butter/olive oil in a small frying pan.  Stir in the bread crumbs and cook, stirring, over medium heat until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.  Stir in a sprinkling of parmesan cheese to mix with the breadcrumbs.  (If you’re not squeamish about anchovies, the breadcrumbs  would be really good with a fillet from a canned anchovy stirred in too!  It would add a lot of that salty, savory umami flavor.)
  4. When the cauliflower is soft, remove the piece of lemon zest. Pour in the cream, and take the soup off the heat.  Puree – carefully! – in small batches in a blender or with a hand-held immersion blender.  Stir in the cheese until it melts (if the soup cools off a lot during the pureeing, you may need to heat it a bit again to get the cheese to melt).  Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add more cream or broth to thin it out if you feel it is too thick.  Serve sprinkled with bread crumbs and accompanied by a salad for a light supper.  Or, call it a veloute and serve it as the first course of a fancy meal!

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