Sunday, November 22, 2009

What to do with a Monster Cauliflower

Yeah, all of that is from a single head of cauliflower

At the Shaker Market I laid eyes on one of the most incredible heads of cauliflower I'd ever seen. They were big and absolutely filled with florets. Usually when I buy cauliflower you get a smaller head and thirty percent of it is usually waste, for this thing I'd say it was closer to fifteen percent. In fact, the one I picked up was just over four pounds and was enough to make this recipe (which calls for 2 heads totaling 4 to 5 pounds.)

Is there a better way to spend a Sunday morning?

Like most everything I've made from the Ad Hoc at Home cookbook, this one is a keeper, (admittedly the only stinker was the chocolate chip cookies, but I think the problem was the amount of flour. I hate baking recipes that use volumes for dry ingredients.)

While this soup is not exactly low fat, it is an irresistible bowl of goodness. I've always found cauliflower to be a pretty boring veggie that is difficult to find good recipes for. As was the case last weekend, the locally grown vegetables at the North Union Farmers Market continues to dwindle, but all of the items used in this recipe can still be found here in Cleveland. This soup is one that should have broad appeal. It's sophisticated enough for the foodie, yet homey enough that my dad wouldn't be afraid to eat it.

Cream of Cauliflower Soup with Red Beet Chips
by Thomas Keller from "Ad Hoc at Home"
  • 2 heads cauliflower (4 to 5 pounds total)
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 C coarsely chopped leeks (white and light green parts only)
  • 3/4 C coarsely chopped onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon Yellow Curry Powder or Madras curry powder
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 C milk
  • 2 C heavy cream
  • 2 cups water
  • Peanut or Canola oil for deep-frying
  • 1 medium red beet
  • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
  • Torn Croutons (see recipe)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Remove the leaves from the cauliflower, and cut out the core. Trim off the stems and reserve them. For the garnish, trim 2 cups florets about the the size of a quarter and set aside.
  2. Coarsely chop the remaining cauliflower and the stems into 1-inch pieces so that they will cook in the same amount of time. You need 8 cups of cauliflower (reserve any extra for another use).
  3. Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, leeks, curry, and coarsely chopped cauliflower, season with 2 teaspoons of salt, cover with a parchment lid, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are almost tender, about 20 minutes. Remove and discard the parchment lid.
  4. Pour in the milk, cream, and water, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes, skimming off the foam from time to time.
  5. Working in batches, transfer the cauliflower mixture to a Vita-Mix (leave an opening in the lid for the steam to escape). Begin pureeing the cauliflower on the lowest speed and blend, slowly increasing the speed, until smooth and velvety. Check the seasoning and add more salt if needed. Transfer to a large saucepan and keep warm. (The soup can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)
  6. Fill a small deep pot with 1 inch of peanut oil and heat over medium heat to 300 degrees. Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet. Line the rack with paper towels.
  7. While the oil heats, peel the beet and slice off about 1/2 inch from the top. Using a Japanese mandoline or other vegetable slicer, slice the beet into rounds that are slightly thicker than paper-thin. Reserve only the full rounds.
  8. Carefully add a few beet rounds to the oil and fry, turning them with a wire skimmer or slotted spoon as the edges begin to curl and pressing gently on the chips to keep them submerged. You will see a great deal of bubbling around the beets as the moisture in them evaporates; when the bubbling stops, after 1 to 1-1/2 minutes, the beets will be crisp. Transfer the beets to the paper-towel-lined rack and season with salt. Fry the remaining chips in batches. The chips can be kept warm in a low oven.
  9. Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the vinegar and the reserved cauliflower florets and blanch until tender, 4 to 6 minutes. The vinegar will help keep the cauliflower white. Drain.
  10. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until the butter turns a rich golden brown. Add the florets and saute until a rich golden brown. Set aside.
  11. To serve, reheat the soup. This is a thick soup, but if it seems too thick, add water to thin it to the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  12. Pour the soup into a serving bowl or soup tureen. Top each serving with a few cauliflower florets, several torn croutons, and a stack of beet chips. (If the beet chips sit in the soup, they will become soggy and discolor it.) Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with pepper. Serve the remaining florets, croutons, and chips in separate bowls on the side,

Torn Croutons

  • 1 loaf of country bread
  • Garlic Oil from Garlic Confit (see recipe)
  • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter
  1. Cut the crusts off of the bread. Tear the bread into irregular pieces no larger than 2 inches. You need about 3 cups of croutons; reserve any remaining bread for another use.
  2. Pour 1/8 inch of the the garlic oil into a large saute pan and heat over medium heat until hot. Spread the bread in a single layer in the pan (if your pan in not large enough, these can be cooked in two smaller pans.) Add the butter. The oil and butter should be bubbling, but if you hear sizzling. the heat is too high. Adjust the heat as necessary, and stir the croutons often as they cook. Cook until the croutons are crisp and a beautiful rich golden brown on all sides, 15 to 20 minutes. Move the croutons to one side of the pan and keep warm until ready to serve. Torn croutons should be used the day they are made; you can reheat them in a low oven before serving if necessary.
Garlic Confit
  • 1 C peeled garlic cloves
  • About 2 C of canola oil
  1. Cut off and discard the root ends of garlic cloves. Put the cloves in a small saucepan and add enough oil to cover them by about 1 inch - none of the garlic cloves should be poking through the oil.
  2. Set the saucepan on a diffuser over medium-low heat. The garlic should cook gently: very small bubbles will come up throught the oil, but the bubbles should not break the surface; adust the heatas necessary and/or move the pan to one side of the diffuser it is cooking to quickly. Cook the garlic for about 40 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until the cloves are completely tender when pierced with the tip of knife. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the garlic to cool in the oil.
  3. Refrigerate the garlic in a covered container, submerged in the oil, for up to 1 week.


  1. thanks for the recipe. I recently bought 21 heads of cauliflower for $4.20 at the produce auction down in Homerville. I'd never eaten cauliflower before, but had a recipe I wanted to try and now I'm not sure why I never ate it before. I've used it many tasty ways. Let me know if you'd like some recipes, I'd be happy to share.

  2. We all eat vitamins and store garlic are used in his great taste and flavor is also good natural antibiotics even swine flu.

  3. No, I actually have one of those Breville blenders. It was a good compromise between price and performance. I just don't use a blender enough to justify that kind of price for a Vitamix.

  4. Can I make this soup a day or two ahead?

  5. You sure can. I actually froze some of this and it reheated well.