I have changed Portale's soup only slightly. Since cauliflower lacks the natural starch present in potatoes, I have added a small amount of rice to the soup (just like the Celery Root & Apple Soup I posted in November). In this soup the starch isn't really necessary for thickening, but it does act as a binder, enhancing the velvety texture and keeping the vegetable solids and liquids from separating.
The other change I have made is to finish the soup with heavy cream. I just can't help myself. You can of course leave it out, but I think its presence would be missed. When you think about the number of servings you can get out of two quarts of soup, the amount of cream per person is really pretty small. If the cream truly bothers you, maybe use less. But as I tell my classes, I don't think that Americans are getting fat because they put heavy cream in their homemade soups.
My favorite way to garnish this soup is with toasted walnuts and crumbled Roquefort,
but there are many other possibilities. These same two ingredients could be served on a crostini and floated on the surface of the soup (like the goat cheese crostini that garnishes my Asparagus Soup). Alfred Portale suggests a cauliflower garnish. To make it he removes three or four large florets of cauliflower from the simmering soup after 3 or 4 minutes (they should be barely tender), slices them thinly. The nice looking slices are sautéed in a bit of butter and are set afloat in each bowl of soup (accompanied by a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of chives). Any not-so-nice slices and bits of cauliflower are returned to the simmering soup.
I have never tried it, but I think that crisp bits of bacon, some grated white cheddar and minced chives would also make a nice garnish....or some nice little garlic or parmesan croutons along with some minced parsley....
As I gathered my ingredients to make this soup, I was struck by the monochromatic color palate of the ingredients.
After the bright and intense colors of the holiday season, the whites, ivories and pale greens of the ingredients had such a tranquil look about them. The flavor too of this soup is simple and clean. It seems that making it...and eating it...could be a nice curative for the over-stimulation of our holiday season. Happy New Year.
Creamy Cauliflower Soup
4 T. unsalted butter
1 small to medium onion (6 to 8 oz.), diced
3 leeks, white and pale green only, thinly sliced (to make 3 to 4 cups) and thoroughly rinsed in several changes of water
1 T. rice
2 med. cauliflower, cored and cut into uniform florets (you will have about 7 c., weighing roughly 1 3/4 lb.)
5 c. water or light chicken stock (or half water and half stock)
1 c. heavy cream
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and leeks along with a pinch of salt and sweat until translucent—do not let them color. Add the rice
and cook a minute or two. Add the cauliflower and some salt and stir to coat. Cook for a few minutes. Add the water or stock (I like to use half stock and half water) and salt to taste.
Increase the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook for 18 to 20 minutes or until the cauliflower is quite tender.
Purée the soup and pass through a fine strainer. Add the heavy cream and heat the soup through. If necessary, thin with water or stock. To serve, gently reheat the soup. When hot, taste and correct the seasoning. Serve immediately with a garnish of your choice.
Makes 2 generous quarts