Monday, November 9, 2009

Cream of Cauliflower Soup with Red Beet Chips

So maybe beets aren't my thing, but there is one veggie with which I have a love affair:

Cauliflower. As a kid, I couldn't stand the stuff - mainly because we were a broccoli family. Cauliflower looked like a bad impostor to my trusted (and tasty!) broccoli. It really wasn't until recently that I started to get along with cauliflower. First, we became friends, then more than friends; now, me and cauliflower, we're tight.

Keller already has his cauliflower hooks in me from the Bouchon Cookbook. The recipe for Cauliflower Gratin is fabulous. That dish is in a consistent rotation at my house - we are averaging twice per month right now. The secret ingredient in the gratin dish is the same secret ingredient in this cauliflower soup: yellow curry powder.

Butter, leeks, onion, cauliflower (with some florets reserved for garnish), salt, and the curry powder are added to the pot and cooked over medium heat for about 20 minutes under a parchment lid.

After the twenty minutes, the vegetables are starting to soften and the soup is ready for the dairy.

After thirty more minutes of cooking, the mixture is quite broken down and ready for a spin in the blender. The book recommends a Vita-Mix (if Santa is listening, the book recommends a Vita-Mix); I slummed it with my Kitchen-Aid and got an acceptable result.

The book warns that the soup is thick; as you can clearly see below it is very thick. I needed to thin it out slightly as it was more like a pudding than a soup. A darn delicious pudding, though.

Once the soup is complete, the next step was to make the garnishes for the final presentation. The garnishes for the soup are torn croutons and red beet chips (I am getting back on the red beet horse). The torn croutons are fried in the oil from the garlic confit:

The reserved cauliflower florets are blanched in salted and acidulated water until tender. Such a technique is similar to the technique that we have seen throughout - individually executed components combined at the last moment to make a final composed dish where each layer stands out because of the precise execution.

After they are drained, the florets are sauteed until golden brown:

The last step is to slice beet chips on the mandoline in preparation for frying. You'll notice the gloves which I think made mandoline slicing more treacherous. At one point, the beet went flying out of my hand, shot across the counter, onto the floor missing the dog's forehead by about three inches. While a red stain on the dog's head might sound funny, I would have been a dead man. The jury is still out on the rubber gloves.

The chips were fried in hot oil until the beets are crisp and the bubbling subsides. The beet chips are drained and finished with salt.

The composition starts with the sauteed cauliflower, the creamy soup, torn croutons and beet chips. The soup is topped with olive oil and ground pepper. I finally got my lighting situation somewhat under control and I was able to capture some nice images:

Verdict? Un-fricking-believable. Keller describes this soup as unctuous, velvety, elegant and satisfying. Yep, yep, yep and yep. The curry adds a nice savory spice note to offset some of the sweetness of the cauliflower but the curry is not overpowering. The sauteed cauliflower florets add a nice subtle texture while the crouton and beet chips add a firmer crunch to the soup. The garlic confit oil in which the croutons were fried did not overwhelm the dish - the garlic flavor is very soft.

What about the beets? We've made up. The beet chips are sweet, salty, beautiful, and they add a nice texture to the soup. They don't add a flavor profile that the dish needs to be successful, but they do add to a striking presentation that would make the dish perfect for company. I am staring to run out of adjectives to describe the dishes that are coming out of this book. This particular soup is definitely going to make its way into the rotation at my house.

Locally grown cauliflower, dairy, bread for croutons from Wegmans
Curry Powder from The Spice House
Beets from NA Market

(Edit 11/10/09 to add sources)


  1. This soup was being served at the Ad Hoc book signing at William-Sanoma in Short Hills, NJ last week. The soup was delicious and meeting Thomas Keller was just awesome. I look forward to following your journey through this great book. Good Luck. JS

  2. I wanted to go to that signing, but couldn't make it fit my schedule - I'm very jealous that you went - I love that they are serving a dish from the book; nice moves. I am trying to make it to one of the appearances before the book tour ends.

  3. This looks really good. I always just hate frying things because it's such a pain dealing with the oil afterwards in my opinion. I think I will have to try this one. I love cauliflower and I love beets, and so it looks like a good bet!

  4. This was my fiancé's favorite dish when we dined at Ad Hoc earlier this year. Thank you for the recipe!