There is a television show on PBS entitled America’s Test Kitchen. It’s filmed in a working test kitchen and is the home of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine. They have test cooks, food scientists, tasters and cookware specialists on the show. Every now and then I’ll catch an episode and find them doing something interesting whether it’s testing recipes, rating products, or trying out the newest kitchen gadget. When they create a recipe, they explain the science behind why it works or doesn’t work. Which is great especially when you try something out that is a total flop! I have gotten a few very good ideas on new tools and tricks when cooking, as well as recipes from the show like this creamy cauliflower soup.
Their original recipe called for 1 and ½ sticks of butter – that’s 12 tablespoons of butter! So while they were very excited to have come up with a creamy soup that added no cream, it had plenty of butter to give it that creamy texture. That’s a lot of butter for a 2 pound head of cauliflower; it’s the equivalent of almost 2 to 3 tablespoons per serving! That’s way too much if you ask me.
It looked so simple and delicious, I decided to try it but with a Splash of Sherri! I used olive oil instead of butter and cut that way down. The result was a delicious tasting soup. One of the secrets to the soup’s flavor is cooking the cauliflower at different times. According to the show’s test kitchen, adding it in two stages gives a grassy flavor of just-cooked cauliflower and the sweeter, nuttier flavor of long-cooked cauliflower.
It was a real winner in my house, very simple, very quick, and a great new way to cook with cauliflower. So here is my version adapted from Cooks Illustrated. Enjoy!
1 head of cauliflower (approximately 2 pounds)
2 to 3 tablespoons light olive oil
1 leek, white and light green part only – washed very well and sliced thin
1 medium onion diced
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon white pepper (more or less to taste)
4 ½ to 5 cups water
3 or more tablespoons minced fresh chives
1 teaspoon of light olive oil (to sauté the reserved cup of florets)
1/2 teaspoon Sherry vinegar (cider vinegar works great as well)
This recipe serves 4 to 6
Pull off the outer leaves of the cauliflower and trim the stem. Use a paring knife and cut around the core to remove. Thinly slice the core and set aside. Separate it into core/stems, and florets. Reserve one cup of small ½” florets and set aside then cut the remaining cauliflower into ½ inch thick slices.
In a medium size pot sauté the sliced leek and diced onion in 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Sauté for 7 minutes until translucent then add stems, core and ½ the florets plus the 4 ½ cups of water. Bring it to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, add the rest of the cauliflower and cook another 15 minutes.
While the soup is cooking, brown the remaining 1 cup of florets in a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat – stirring frequently. Sauté the cauliflower until golden brown; this takes about 5 to 10 minutes. When done, take the florets out with a slotted spoon, transfer to a small bowl and toss with the vinegar and season with a pinch of salt. Reserve the oil for a garnish or discard.
Puree the soup in a blender, food processor or use a stick blender until smooth (about a minute or two). Simmer the soup another couple of minutes on medium heat and adjust the consistency with more water as needed. The soup should have a thick, velvety texture. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with the browned florets, chives, and olive oil as a garnish.
Total cooking time should be no longer then 40 minutes. After that, the cauliflower will start to loose it’s flavor.