cream of cauliflower soup with red beet chips

I totally forgot how much fun laryngitis is. Not. It was actually really exhausting this time around. So I drank a lot of ginger tea. And loaded up on Ricolas and tracked down my favorite cough syrup. I tried my best to speak as little as possible (especially after my father said I sounded like a man) and kept my alcohol consumption to a minimum. I was beginning to think that my karaoke days had been numbered when, finally, on day eleven my voice returned. It’s still a bit hoarse, but what a relief!

While I was nursing myself back to health, I spent some quality time in bed with Thomas Keller, I mean, Thomas Keller’s AdHoc at Home, a Christmas gift from my mom. The recipes in this book are far more approachable than the others in the Keller collection. Plus, there are a ton of kitchen tips and tricks throughout the book that can be applied to your daily cooking (like making and using parchment paper lids). I have been glued to the pages.

I pretty much flagged every recipe in the soup section of the book. One of the recipes that immediately caught my eye was the cream of cauliflower soup, which surprised me because I’ve never been a huge fan of cauliflower. I think it’s fine, though I don’t typically go out of my way to cook it or eat it. But I was very intrigued by this particular recipe. I think it might have been the fried beet chip garnish that sealed the deal for me.

Since it’s January and everyone is still trying their best to stick to their diets, I wish I could tell you that this is a healthy vegetable soup. But I would be lying. This soup is decadent. It is rich and velvety smooth and has a slightly earthy, full bodied flavor. And it’s garnished with browned cauliflower florets and garlicky croutons and crispy beet chips, which are the perfect contrasts in texture. The soup is also pretty amazing without all of the fancy accoutrements; just a drizzle of olive oil and you’re good to go. But I do love those beet chips. Almost as much as I love this soup. You’ve been so good this year. Treat yourself!

cream of cauliflower soup

adapted from Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller

serves 6

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 heads cauliflower (4 to 5 pounds total)

3/4 cup coarsely chopped leeks (light green and white parts only)

3/4 cup coarsely chopped onion

1/4 teaspoon yellow curry powder

kosher salt

2 cups heavy cream

2 cups whole milk

2 cups water

peanut or canola oil for deep frying

1 medium red beet

1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar

freshly ground black pepper

garlic croutons

for the soup:

Remove the outer leaves of the cauliflower, and cut out the core. Trim off the stems and reserve them. For the garnish, trim 2 cups florets and set aside.

Coarsely chop the remaining cauliflower and the stems into 1-inch pieces to that they will cook evenly. You will need 8 cups of cauliflower.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, leek, curry and chopped cauliflower, season with 2 teaspoons salt, cover with a parchment lid. Cook, stirring occasionally,  until the vegetables are almost tender, about 20 minutes. Remove and discard the parchment lid.

Pour in the milk. cream and water, increase heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes, skimming off the foam from time to time.

Working in batches, transfer the cauliflower mixture to a blender of food processor. Puree until smooth and velvety. Check the seasoning and add more salt if needed. Transfer back to the saucepan and keep warm. (The soup can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

for the garnish:

Fill a small deep pot with 1 inch of oil and heat over medium heat to 300°F. Set a cooling rack lined with paper towels over a baking sheet.

While the oil heats, peel the beet and slice off about 1/2 inch from the top. Using a mandoline, slice the beet into rounds that are slightly thicker than paper-thin.

Carefully add a few beet rounds to the oil and fry, turning them with a wire skimmer or slotted spoon as the edges begin to curl, pressing gently on the chips to keep them submerged.  When the bubbling stops, after 1 to 1-1/2 minutes, the beets will be crisp. Transfer the beets to the prepared cooling rack and season with salt. Fry the remaining chips in batches. The chips can be kept warm in a low oven.

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the vinegar and the reserved cauliflower florets and blanch until tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Drain.

Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat, swirling pan occasionally, until the butter turns a rich golden brown. Add the florets and saute until a rich golden brown. Set aside.

to serve:

Reheat the soup if necessary. If it seems to thick, add a little water to thin to the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the soup into bowls. Top each serving with croutons, a few cauliflower florets and a stack of beet chips. Sprinkle with pepper. Serve immediately.