A Warming Cauliflower Soup for Chilly Fall Nights

Fall has been slow to arrive in New England this year. Throughout September there were many days when temperatures reached the 80s and 90s, and the air conditioning was kept running. My cooking—which included grilled dishes and plenty of salads–was more redolent of summer than autumn. Finally, this past week the weather turned brisk and chilly, signaling the arrival of the new season and the time for me to change my menus. Along with roasting rather than grilling meats, I’ve been making hearty soups like the creamy cauliflower soup featured here today.

When we invited good friends for a kitchen dinner last weekend, I offered, as a first course, bowls of this smooth, ivory-hued potage topped with sautéed cauliflower florets and sprinkled with toasted bread crumbs and parsley. (The fall theme was continued with roast ,racks of pork with apple chutney, whipped butternut squash, and a wild rice and grape pilaf.)

This recipe doesn’t take long to assemble, and can be prepared two days in advance. Cauliflower florets are paired with leeks, and cooked in chicken stock until tender, then the mixture is pureed and enriched with crème fraîche and Parmesan cheese. I made the bread crumbs the day before and sautéed some florets for the garnish an hour ahead

Although I used this soup as an opener, it is hearty enough to stand on its own. Add a favorite salad (mixed greens, sliced apples, and walnuts in a cider vinaigrette, for example) or pair it with grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch or a light supper.

 

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Cauliflower Soup with Crème Fraîche, Parmesan and Toasted Bread Crumbs

2 large cauliflowers (about 2 1/4 pounds each)
4 tbsp unsalted butter
3 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts only (4 to 5 medium leeks)
8 cups chicken stock
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano,
1/2 cup crème fraîche
Kosher salt

Garnishes
3 tbsp olive oil plus more if needed
1 cup fresh bread crumbs made from a good artisan bread, including crusts if not too hard
1 generous cup cauliflower florets (reserved from cauliflower used for the soup), halved or quartered (if large) lengthwise
4 tsp chopped flat leaf parsley

1. Cut cauliflowers into florets to yield about 13 cups. Remove 1 generous cup of the florets and set aside for the garnish.

2. Heat butter in a large, heavy deep-sided pot (with a lid) over medium high heat. Add leeks and sauté, stirring until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add 12 cups of cauliflower florets, chicken stock, and cayenne pepper. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cover pot with a lid. Cook until vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes.

3. While soup is cooking prepare the garnishes. For toasted bread crumbs, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium, heavy skillet over medium heat. When hot, add bread crumbs, stirring constantly until crisp and rich golden brown, 3 minutes or more. (Crumbs can be prepared 2 days ahead; cool and store in a plastic self-sealing bag at room temperature.) When cool enough to handle, wipe out the skillet with paper towels and add remaining olive oil. Set over medium heat and when hot, add reserved cauliflower florets and cook, stirring, until lightly browned and tender, adding more oil if needed, 4 to 5 minutes.

4. Puree soup in a food processor, blender or food mill, and return it to the pot. Or, use an immersion blender to puree the soup in the pot. Whisk in the Parmesan and the crème fraîche. Season with salt, as needed. (Soup can be made 2 days in advance; cool, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat over medium heat.)

5. Ladle soup into 6 soup bowls and garnish each serving with some sautéed cauliflower florets and a sprinkle of bread crumbs and parsley. Serves 6.

Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2018

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