Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cauliflower Soup with Cheddar, Cayenne and Torn Croutons

I am clearly in a soup frame of mind.  We had soup Monday night for dinner and I can't stop thinking about making more soup for dinner tonight.  It's a soup obsession.  I want soup, soup and more soup.  And this weekend in Maine I am thinking about chowder.  Or chowda.  And lobster.  I can't wait to eat some lobster.  Maybe a nice lobster bisque is in order...  Anyway, this cauliflower soup was a wonderful weeknight meal because it is easy to put together and doesn't require a lot of ingredients.  The cheese made it rich without the need for heavy cream, although it does mask the flavor of the cauliflower itself a little.  As a side note, I have a really hard time putting heavy cream in my soups at home.  I don't mind ordering soups that I know are cream-based at restaurants, but somehow making them at home just seems wrong.  The soup was warm and comforting, with a little kick from the cayenne sprinkled on top.  And for the record, the reason our cayenne doesn't look like the ground cayenne you usually see at the grocery store is because it didn't come from a grocery store.  This cayenne is from the batch of home grown and home dried chilis that John gave us in Cincinnati.  It rocks.  And I decided not to throw the croutons on top because I really wanted you to see the cayenne (and not just more beige), but you have to make them with this soup.  They really add a nice crunch and a lovely garlicky/buttery flavor.  Yum.

Recipe after the jump!

Cauliflower Soup with Cheddar, Cayenne and Torn Croutons 

 3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp evoo
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
1 medium head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch florets
2 roasted cloves of garlic (leftover from the Torn Croutons recipe below)
4 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Coarse salt and ground pepper
cayenne pepper
Torn Croutons (recipe below)

In a large pot, melt butter over medium.  Add evoo and swirl to combine.  Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6-8 minutes.  Add the cauliflower and cook until just beginning to caramelize and turn golden brown, about 10-12 minutes. Add stock and 1 cup water.  Bring mixture to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until the cauliflower is very tender, about 18-20 minutes.  Using an immersion blender, puree mixture until smooth (if you don't have an immersion blender, you can use a real blender and just blend the soup in batches).  Return the soup to to the stovetop over moderate heat.  Heat until the soup is warmed through, adding the cheddar cheese and stirring until melted.  Season with s&p to taste.

Ladle hot soup into individual soup bowls.  Sprinkle with cayenne to taste and garnish with torn croutons.  Serve.

Torn Croutons
Adapted from Ad Hoc At Home
By Thomas Keller

1 loaf country bread
canola or vegetable oil (evoo works too)
5 crushed, peeled garlic cloves
2 tbsp unsalted butter

Cut the crusts off the loaf of bread. Tear the bread into irregular pieces no larger than 2 inches. You need about 3 cups of croutons; reserve any remaining bread for another use.

Pour 1/8 inch of oil into a large saute pan, add garlic cloves, and heat over low heat until the garlic cloves are golden brown, flipping the cloves from time to time. Remove the garlic cloves (reserve two for the soup) and use the oil for the croutons.

Heat garlic oil over medium heat until hot. Spread the bread in a single layer in the pan (or cook them in two smaller pans). Add the butter. The oil and butter should be bubbling, but if you hear sizzling, the heat is too high. Adjust the heat as necessary, and stir the croutons often as they cook. Cook until the croutons are crisp and a beautiful rich golden brown on all sides, 5 minutes. Move the croutons to one side of the pan and keep warm until ready to serve. Torn croutons should be used the day they are made; you can reheat them in a low oven before serving if necessary. 

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