Crème de Chou-Fleur

It’s like eating savory ice-cream. No, better than that. It’s like eating a marble sculpture, smooth and milky, with subtle streams of walnut brown peeking through the grain. It’s like carving a scoop out of a cumulonimbus and swallowing a warm pillow. For each action there is an equal and opposite reaction and that chill you get on winter nights, deep down in your toes that no sock or sweatpant can warm? – this is the reaction, equal and opposite. Another favorite of Alexis’ (whaat? A recipe with bacon is a house favorite? What a shocker!), this Cream of Cauliflower Soup pours into bowls as smoothly as Kenny G’s smoothest jazz pours into ears and floats down into your stomach, for a warm, wonderful welcome.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes

This recipe makes 6 servings, you will need a blender of some sort.

For the Soup:

1 Head of Cauliflower

1 medium Yellow Onion

1/2 cup Walnuts

1/2 cup Whole Cream

2-3 cups Chicken Stock

Bacon

1 teaspoon dry Dill

The Soup:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 Fahrenheit.
  2. While the oven preheats, trim the cauliflower head down into florets. Dice the onion into small pieces. You’ll want to use a yellow onion – I find they roast a little bit nicer because they are so sweet, and you don’t want an onion spice coming through in the final product. Depending on how you buy your walnuts, you may need to break them up further into smaller pieces, but you will be pureeing this soup before we’re done, so don’t worry about size too much.
  3. Combine the three above in a large bowl and toss together with a tablespoon or two of olive oil, some salt, and some pepper and then lay out on a baking sheet. Pop into the preheated oven for at least 30 minutes – just as things start to brown. You can lengthen the roast time if you like, it’ll bring more of a smokey flavor to the final product, but you run the risk of burning the walnuts and you’ll have to wait a bit longer before you can eat. 30 minutes should get those roasty flavors going, but if you want to really darken the cauliflower, hold the walnuts for about 15 minutes before adding them to the pan.
  4. While the veggies are roasting, cube the bacon and throw it into the bottom of a dutch oven on medium high heat. How much bacon you want to use is entirely up to you, just be aware that it’s a strong flavor that much more subtle flavors will have to contend with down the line. For that reason you should also be cognizant of the type of bacon you’re using. I have no issue with using a hickory or maple smoked bacon in this recipe (the maple flavor, with its sweetness and woodiness plays well with the onions and dill especially), but you don’t wan’t to be surprised by it. Fry the bacon pieces till you reach your desired crispiness and most of the fat has rendered. Remove the bacon from the pot and set aside; then do the same with the fat. I like to leave 1-2 tablespoons of bacon fat in the mix, this brings the bacon flavor without having to add a whole lot of actual bacon, but there is a fine line here again. Too much will be overpowering, not to mention greasy.
  5. Once the vegetables have finished their turn in the oven, add them to the dutch oven with the bacon fat and throw in the dill. I like to saute them for a few minutes, just to get everything well coated and poppin’. If you want a chunkier soup, remove a fifth of the vegetables and set them aside with your cooked bacon.
  6. Go in with your cream and all but half a cup of your stock. Bring the mix to a bubble, stirring regularly to prevent sticking. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Now, consider if you want a thicker soup or thin. I prefer thicker, so I don’t add that last half cup of stock, but if you want it thin, throw it in.
  7. Using an immersion blender, cream everything together. If you have a stand blender, check to see if it’s heat safe (some blenders can handle hot liquids, others can’t. If you’re in doubt, let the soup cool first before trying) and then be careful pouring it in. You don’t want to catch the splatter from this soup, it’ll hurt (trust me). If you don’t have a blender…look’s like you’re having chunky soup.
  8. Return to the pot, add in your bacon (and vegetables if you set them aside earlier), and then taste for salt and pepper. Serve with a dash of pepper and dill over the top. Maybe a grating of nutmeg if you’re feeling crazy.

This soup is unctuous. It’s delicious and drool-inducing. It is a luxury and not the most health-food-friendly, but you shouldn’t be eating this every night of the week anyway. This is a treat. The star here is cauliflower and roasting it (along with the walnuts and onions) brings an intense contrast of flavors; it’s bitter and smokey, it’s nutty, it’s sweet and fresh and floral, it’s creamy before the cream even goes in the pot and then explodes into a rich, delectable bowl of goodness once you add the cream and chicken stock. Be careful with the bacon (be generous, just be careful) and liberal with the vegetables and this will hit the spot, guaranteed. Also – fun fact of the week – “Chou-Fleur” translates literally to “Cabbage Flower,” so pardon my French, but I’ll take every chance to write out “Cabbage Flower” that I get. Nothing sounds as delicious as Cream of Cabbage Flower Soup.

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