- 1 head cauliflower
- 1 quart chicken stock (homemade preferred; low sodium otherwise)
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 yellow onion
- 3 ribs celery
- 2 nubs fresh turmeric
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
- Salt (to taste)
- Green onion (optional)
- Oyster crackers (optional)
Method: Preheat oven to 450F. Remove the leaves and stems from the cauliflower, and break the head into florets. Toss in 1 tablespoon of oil, and roast in the oven for 30 minutes, turning once. Chop and sweat the onion and celery in the other tablespoon of oil and a sprinkling of salt until soft, then add the garlic and turmeric and continue to sweat for five (5) more minutes. Cover with chicken stock, and allow to simmer until the cauliflower is done. Add half the roasted cauliflower to the pot and puree. Add milk, bring up to temp, and season to taste. Serve hot over reserved roasted cauliflower, and/or with green onion and oyster crackers.
For a long time, I had a problem with cauliflower. My issue wasn’t with the vegetable itself, but rather the fact that I always seemed to have one in the fridge and no matter how many times I cooked it or threw it away, there it was again. Mocking me.
Until one day, at wits-end and staring down a fridge bereft of anything actually good to cook, I put this together. And my problem with cauliflower ceased to be.
This soup checks a lot of craving-boxes for this household, from broccoli-cheese to vichyssoise. Served hot on a damp spring day, or chilled as an appetizer in late summer, its savory-sweet-nuttiness and silky texture always satisfy.
And, like everything else around here, it’s wicked cheap and easy. So, let’s cook.
Step One – Roast the Cauliflower
Get the oven on to 450F to preheat, and then split your head in half:
From here, break off the florets into bite-sized chunks, and toss them with about a tablespoon of oil BUT NO SALT which can mush things up during the roasting:
You might notice some of the stem in the photo above. I like to include them because, well, they’re free and they’ll come in handy here in a few minutes. If you want to as well, just make sure all the leaves are off them, and any extra-woody parts are pared down. If you want to go florets-only, that’s cool too.
From here, they’re going into that oven for half an hour, with a toss at the halfway point. My preferred vessel for this is ol’ faithful, my big cast iron skillet, but you can use a sheet pan or whatever else you want, so long as the cauliflower isn’t too bunched up. We’re roasting, not steaming:
At the halfway point:
Good patches of color starting to form, and these need to be tossed/turned. You may actually have to get some tongs for the more stubborn bits, as cauliflower for some reason hates to roll over. All the way through and out of the oven:
This is what we’re looking for. Lots of roasty-toasty color, and the bigger chunks are softened, but with plenty of bite and texture left. Set these aside for now while we build our soup base.
Step Two – Build Your Soup Base
We’ve talked a lot about this next step over the years, and it’s still the same. Get your other tablespoon of oil heating over low heat in a big soup pot or Dutch oven while we address our aromatics:
This is it: celery, onion, garlic, and those grub-looking things in the middle are our fresh turmeric (more on that in a minute). Go ahead and chop down the celery and onion first, and don’t worry too much about your knife work. This is all headed for the blender:
Get the onion and celery into the pot with a hearty pinch of salt, and let them sweat. In the meantime, let’s talk turmeric:
I came to fresh turmeric very late in life. Until then, I was only familiar with the ground version – a sort of flavorless yellow dust that’s really only good for coloring doughs or bulking out store-brand curry powders. Fresh turmeric is a totally different ballgame, which becomes clear once that outer peel is scraped off with a kitchen spoon:
That’s no filter, it really is bright orange. Flavor and aroma-wise, it’s basically like a super-carrot with a little bit of ginger. It’s awesome, and you should put it in everything, but I digress.
Once the celery and onions have softened a little, get both of your turmeric… nubs (?) peeled and into the pot, along with the garlic (also peeled, but you can leave the cloves whole):
Let this sweat for another five (5) minutes or so, then cover with your chicken stock and let simmer for another five (5) minutes:
This isn’t going to look like a ton of liquid, which is fine. We only need enough to help us blend the cauliflower, which brings us to step three:
Step Three – Blend the Cauliflower
Add about half of your roasted cauliflower directly to the soup, and kill the heat. I try to pick the pieces that are too big or too small for a soup spoon, and also those chunks of stem (told you they’d be useful). Let the soup cool for a few minutes, and then blend. You can do this with an immersion blender, but I like the big guns of my vitamix knock-off. As always, when you’re blending anything hot, be careful. The end goal is a very creamy puree:
Add your whole milk, and bring it up to temp. Then have a taste:
The only seasoning you need to add at this point is salt, and even then you may find you don’t need it. From here, if serving hot, go ahead and grab some of the reserved roasted cauliflower and add to your bowl of choice:
Ladle the hot soup over, and top with green onion (if desired):
Personally, I also love some oyster crackers, and a criminally insane amount of black pepper and hot sauce, but truth be told, it needs neither:
And that’s it. If I could only have one soup for the rest of my life, it might be this one, if only because it’s so versatile and scratches so many itches. It’s the ultimate “soup station” soup, if that makes sense.
A few closing notes: because of the properties of turmeric, this will actually get more golden yellow as it sits, which is super neat. It also may leave a little yellowing on whatever you store it in, but that’s not permanent.
Also, because of the properties of the cauliflower when it’s pureed, this stuff is stable as a carbon rod in terms of separation concerns in the fridge. In other words, it’ll reheat like a champion without breaking down into dairy versus veg versus stock, which isn’t the case for most chowders and other soups of this ilk.
So, get a head of cauliflower and see just why the hell society keeps growing these things.
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