Wish Upon A Dish: Cream of Cauliflower Soup - I Think?

April 19, 2013

Cream of Cauliflower Soup - I Think?

There is no cream in this soup, if you don't count the butter (butter is made from cream and used here as a garnish).
I think it should be called Creamy Cauliflower Soup but this is not my recipe. I was testing it for Cook's Illustrated Magazine. We are asked nicely not to blog about the tests until the recipe makes it into the magazine but they never let you know if it does.
I suppose I will be in trouble.
I have to say that this recipe changed my whole mindset about technique vs. ingredients = great flavor.
Simple but the best ingredients you can afford and small tweaks with basic simple techniques is all you need to produce gourmet scrumptious dishes.

A few good examples would be roasting, caramelizing, reducing and braising.
I have been taken down a peg, so sure I could tell a good recipe from a blah one by the ingredient list. This recipe had me totally fooled because I had given it a death sentence before I took knife in hand.

Shame on me, how dare I? The Nudge inhaled it and proclaimed it delicious!
OK, I have to admit it was really good, but I deserve some credit. Without the complementary garnishes, this would be a very typical SPA soup, you know, healthy with some flavor but not good enough for company. I wasn't totally wrong in my initial assessment but in any other scenario, I would never have given it a thought, but because it was from professionals and I take my testing assignments seriously, I went into it with an open mind.

I can not recommend this soup to anyone who does not adore cauliflower because it is all about the cauliflower. No flavored broth or stock to mask the vegetable flavor and cauliflower can have a unique flavor for some, that's why roasting is usually recommended.

Would I make it again? Probably not as written. Not a fan of butter, and browning it and using as a finishing oil was not something I would think of doing again. While it was way too over the top for me, I would finish with a drizzle of a gourmet nut oil and replace the water with a vegetable stock.
Other than that it was a light creamy soup that had tons of cauliflower flavor.

Cream of Cauliflower Soup
Serves 6
Tested for Cook's Illustrated 
* 1 head cauliflower (2 pounds)
* 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
* 1 small onion, halved and sliced thin
* 1 leek, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced this and washed thoroughly
* Salt & pepper
* 4 1/2 cups water
* 1/4 teaspoon sherry vinegar
* 3 tablespoons minced fresh chives

1. Trim end of cauliflower core even with florets and discard. Cut core from inside cauliflower but do not discard that (this will be cooked separately, first before the florets are added). Trim off any green leaves and slice lengthwise and then across into thin half moons.
Transfer to medium bowl. Cut heaping 1 cup of 1/2" florets from head and set aside (this is the garnish).
Halve remaining head, then slice whole section into 1/2" thick slices. Place cut cauliflower in a separate bowl from sliced core.

2. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion, leek and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt; cook, stirring frequently, until onion is softened but not browned, about 7 minutes.

3. Increase heat to medium-high, add 4 cups of the water and bowl of core pieces and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add remaining reserved cauliflower florets, return to simmer and continue to cook until cauliflower is tender and crumbles, 15-20 minutes longer.

4. While soup simmers, melt remaining 5 tablespoons butter in 8" skillet over medium heat. Add reserved florets and cook, stirring frequently, until floret are golden brown and butter is browned, 4-6 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and use slotted spoon to transfer to mall bowl. Toss florets with vinegar and season with salt to taste, Pour browned butter in skillet into a small pitcher and reserve for garnishing.

5. Process soup in blender until smooth, about 45 seconds. Return pureed soup to pot and place over medium heat. Return soup to simmer, adjusting consistency with up to remaining 1/2 cup water (soup should have velvety texture but settle into flat surface after being stirred) and season to taste with salt. Serve, garnishing individual bowls with browned florets, drizzle of brown butter, chives and pepper to taste.

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