I tend to like almost everything that comes out of Tyler Florence’s kitchen. So when I turned to a beautiful photo of cauliflower soup in his cookbook, Tyler’s Ultimate, I didn’t think twice about making it as soon as possible. But let's just say things didn't work out. (I suppose I should preface with a note about how I still love Tyler and although I was disappointed with his soup, I’ve moved on.) So, on to the disaster.
Most soups begin by sautéing a base of onions, garlic, or other vegetables, then adding liquid, usually stock, and letting it bubble away. Tyler's recipe began by simmering cream, then adding the onions and cauliflower and boiling them until they were tender. Although a red flag was raised when the recipe for what looked to be a perfectly delicious soup called for an entire stick of butter and one quart of cream, I followed the recipe exactly. This resulted in a soup that looked nothing like the glossy photo in his cookbook. In fact, there was hardly a resemblance. Not to mention that the milk frothed like latte foam when I used my immersion blender. Oh, it was a sad evening. While the flavors were certainly there (the scent of butter seeping into cream, infused with thyme, was almost heavenly), I couldn't bear to look into my Dutch oven.
I was ready to give up, but wanted to at least attempt saving it. I tried to thicken the mixture by adding shreds of French bread and letting them soften before pureeing the soup again. It helped, but the soup, I later reasoned, was beyond saving.
There was, however, one glistening beam of hope shining down from the fluorescent kitchen light: the topping of Tyler’s soup was perfect. A mixture of toasted bread crumbs, thyme, and reserved cauliflower florets provided the satisfying crunch I tend to look for with creamy soups. So, it wasn’t a complete disaster, but I vowed to fix the problem immediately by creating my own version of cauliflower soup that was thick, healthy, and wouldn’t make me want to cry.
I turned to my Potato and Leek soup as a starting point. I’ve made this soup often enough that I rely on memory when making it, and it always, always, is the perfect velvety consistency. I reduced the number of potatoes, added cauliflower and thyme, and miraculously managed to create my ideal soup experience, perfect for the rainy weather we’ve been having.
Perfect Cauliflower Soup
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 heads cauliflower, core removed and cut into florets
2 small russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, sliced
Several sprigs thyme, bundled with a string
6-8 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Melt butter and olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally until onions are soft, about five minutes. Add chopped potatoes, cauliflower florets and thyme bundle to the pot. Add chicken stock until liquid just covers the vegetables. Bring soup to a boil, then cover and simmer over medium heat until the vegetables are tender, about ten to fifteen minutes.
2. Turn off heat and let soup cool for several minutes before pureeing. Using an immersion blender, puree mixture in 60-second intervals until lumps are removed. Add heavy cream, butter, salt and pepper to taste and stir until combined.
3. To serve, return pot to low heat ten minutes before serving. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with desired garnishes, a drizzle of olive oil, and serve.
Notes on garnishes: You have a lot of options for how to finish your soup. Here are a few suggestions
- Toasted breadcrumbs with thyme and pine nuts: In a small saucepan, toast breadcrumbs, pine nuts, and thyme leaves until brown and crisp
- Roasted cauliflower florets: You can roast these in the oven for 40 minutes at 400 degrees (dressed with olive oil, salt, and pepper) or saute in a bit of butter in a skillet
- If you have nothing else – chopped parsley!