Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Most Subtle Soup in the World

Last night's dinner was not spectacular. I was just too tired, and in a rotten mood to boot. I was planning a beautiful turnip and potato gratin, but I couldn't find it in me to do it.

We ended up instead with Trader Joe's Biriyani and Channa Masala (chickpeas!), sautéed turnips (thanks C.S.A.!), watercress with a lemon vinaigrette –– and soup. French Cream of Cauliflower Soup (thanks again, C.S.A.!).

This soup is the most understated soup that I have ever prepared. That may be my fault. Perhaps, not enough cauliflower and too much water. I can't tell if I ate this in a restaurant, if I would find it sublime and subtle or simply bland. It is straddling a fence, for sure.

I would definitely try this soup again, though –– twice.

Once, following the brilliant Alice Waters instructions in
Chez Panisse Vegetables more carefully, using a two to three pound cauliflower, instead of an almost two pound cauliflower.

And again, using chicken stock in lieu of water. The soup would certainly be more velvety with more cauliflower, and perhaps more flavorful.

I do very much like the use of crème fraîche here, creamy yet tangy.

French Cream of Cauliflower Soup

1 large cauliflower (2 to 3 pounds)
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons crème fraîche

Cut off the stem and leaves of the cauliflower and break it into flowerets. Rinse them in cold water. Reserve a handful of flowerets to garnish the soup (I did not do this. I think tiny croutons would be nicer.).

In a soup pot, stew the onion and the cauliflower in the butter with a little water for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not let them brown. Add water to cover and cook for 25 minutes, covered, over medium heat. Meanwhile, parboil the reserved flowerets in boiling salted water for 8 minutes or so, keeping them crunchy.

Purée the soup in a blender and reheat gently to just under boiling. Add the crème fraîche and season with salt and nutmeg to taste. Serve the soup hot hot hot, garnished with the flowerets and chervil.

*** Final Note ***

I ate this soup three more times. I'm now a fan. It is still without a doubt subtle, but there is a loveliness in that. Even before I manage to remake it, I now feel able to wholeheartedly recommend this soup.

Although delightful with chives, I'm still banking on tiny buttery brioche croutons as the winning garnish here.

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