Entertaining is my drug of choice. Here’s what it does: It makes me clean my house, put out new flowers and communicate effectively with friends. It also makes me feel really down if I don’t do it enough. The morning-after effect of my drug is lots of washing up, tons of broken wine glasses (solved that one with these $6 beauties from Crate & Barrel) and a constant drain on our wine cabinet and checking account. On balance, though, I love it. Blame my southern blood or blame it on my infatuation with food and formal training but I need very little excuse to host a get together. Wedding at our house? Sure! Dinner for 10? Sure! Baby shower? Wedding shower? Surprise party? Yes! Yes! Yes! Nick, on the other hand, loves to have people over for dinner or even to host the occasional party but once a month is enough for him. His role is usually to curb my habit. “No, Jessica, we cannot host a dinner party for 14 people the night before a 5am flight to Europe ” or “No, Jessica, we can not have a crawfish boil and invite 50 people over…tomorrow”
Occasionally, however, Nick goes out of town. When that happens there is no one around to quell my urge to gather friends around our stove, drink loads of wine and solve all the problems of the world.
And that’s how I came up with the most amazing cauliflower soup recipe.
Nick had barely left for the airport when the invitations started. First our nanny, Kristin, who happily switches hats from excellent playmate for a 4-year-old and 6-year-old to a fully grown, conversation-having, dinner party guest (but still is on hand for crying kids….THAT is a good dinner party guest!), then Gabrielle (of Gabrielle’s Texas Chili), her über fashionable mother and her friend, Sonya, visiting from California. Then, of course, Martine and Martine’s friend – her fearless cross-country driving companion – Monika.
It was only after the guest list was set that I realized I had four heads of cauliflower and two weeks to go before giving birth AND had been asleep by about 8pm each night the week prior. If that isn’t a recipe for a helluva dinner party I don’t know what is.
Anyway Martine and I managed to scavenge together a generously sized butter lettuce salad with sliced strawberries, toasted almonds and a balsamic reduction dressing and followed it with a creamy roasted cauliflower soup. I served a crisp white Picpoul de Pinet from the Languedoc region of France and everyone was high on good friends, nice food and an impromptu gathering that was unusual for us all. Regarding the soup, though everyone was complimentary that night, it was when the emails started rolling in the next day asking for — begging for — the recipe that I knew I had a winner on my hands.
It took me a few weeks to have a chance to recreate the soup and document the recipe but I have finally done it…and present it here for your dining pleasure. The real key is in roasting the cauliflower. I know you can boil the cauliflower and achieve the same basic effect but the rich, nutty flavor that comes from oven-roasting the cauliflower is what makes this soup outstanding. Don’t skip this step.
- 2 heads of white cauliflower, cut into 1" florets
- 1 head of purple cauliflower cut into 1/2" florets or smaller
- 1 head of orange cauliflower cut into 1/2" florets or smaller
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Fresh cracked black pepper
- 1 yellow or white onion, diced
- 1 sprig thyme
- 4 cups (32 oz/950 ml) of chicken broth
- 1 large clove garlic, sliced
- 1 cup (8 oz/240 ml) heavy cream
- Preheat oven to 375°F / 190°C
- Spread the white cauliflower out on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil -- about 2 tablespoons. Then top with salt and pepper to taste (go on and pick up a floret with the olive oil, salt and pepper and eat it. It should have just enough salt and pepper to make you want to eat it raw). Don't salt or pepper anymore than you would want to eat it raw.
- Do the same for the orange and purple cauliflower but spread them out on a different tray than the white cauliflower. This is important.
- Bake the white cauliflower: Put it in the oven at 375°F / 190°C for 20 minutes and then crank up to 400 degrees for last 10 minutes.
- Then bake the purple and orange cauliflower at 400°F / 205°C for 20 minutes.
- While the cauliflower is baking, turn the fire up to medium under a large saucepan or heavy bottomed casserole pan. After about a minute add a tablespoon of olive oil then the onion. Stir frequently until soft and transparent - about 10 minutes. Remember any color on the onions will change the color of the soup so you really don't want them going too brown.
- Add the chicken stock, garlic, thyme sprig and the roasted white cauliflower to the pot. Bring it to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the heavy cream and simmer for another 5 minutes. Do not let the soup boil after you add the heavy cream.
- Remove and discard the thyme sprig. Puree the soup in batches, pouring the pureed soup into a new clean saucepan or pot. Taste for seasoning and add salt or pepper as needed.
- Ladle soup into warm soup bowls and top with a small handful of roasted orange and purple cauliflower. Serve immediately.