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We eat because we must, we cook because we can.
For those who willingly spend many hours in front of the stove, cooking is the connective tissue between all of life’s big moments; I remember what I ate at my wedding more than what I said, and I remember every dish that was brought to my mother-in-law when her husband died, though I have trouble recalling who was around as I carefully wrapped up the taco casseroles and buttermilk pie.
We cook delicious things to make special occasions more memorable, and to comfort ourselves when the world seems confusing or senseless. To that end I strongly recommend Mystery Soup for the weeknight cook.
This is a very simple but surprisingly hearty blend of a few ingredients that take almost no time at all to bring together. The only significant tweak I made was to drizzle the cauliflower with some good olive oil first and roast it for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees, to give it an extra smoky flavor and reduce its cooking time in the stock. You don’t have to do this.
I do think it will taste better with homemade stock, but do what you can on that front.
Once I had it all cooked down (I used closer to four cups, rather than six, of the stock) I used my immersion blender, rather than a food processor, and it worked just fine. The revelation is the cream and lemon, which take this soup -- which I have made many versions of over the years -- to a whole new complex level of flavor. This all took me under and hour, and could have been less if I had not been distracted by Twitter.
Use a little extra dollop of the crème fraiche. Get some nice crusty bread to dip into your bowl. Be good to yourself. And everyone around you, too.
Makes 4-8 servings
- 1 cauliflower, cut into florets
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4 - 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 - 6 cups best chicken broth or stock
- salt (kosher salt preferred)and white pepper to taste
- 2 - 3 tablespoons creme fraiche
- tiny squeeze fresh lemon juice
- Melt the butter in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan or dutch oven over low to medium heat and add the onions, cooking and stirring until the onions are translucent.
- Add the cauliflower and stir everything around for 4 or 5 minutes. You want the veggies to soften and take on a bit of color, but not brown. If you need to add another bit of butter that's fine, it all depends on how much cauliflower you have. Season with salt and pepper (you will correct the seasoning before serving), and stir for a minute or two more.
- When you can gently pierce a cauliflower piece with the tip of a sharp knife, add about a cup of the broth or stock, a bit at a time, still stirring, and continue to cook until most of the liquid is gone.
- Set aside to cool slightly for about 10-15 minutes.
- Place contents of your soup pot into the bowl of a food processor and process until quite smooth, adding another couple of cups of the stock a little at a time, and scraping the bowl as necessary. This may take a good five minutes.
- Return the pureed cauliflower to the soup pot and place on medium low heat. Stir in the rest of the stock and cook for an additional ten minutes or so.
- When you like the consistency, check the seasoning: tasting and adding salt and pepper as necessary. Just before serving, remove from the heat and stir in the creme fraiche and a squeeze of lemon juice, also to taste.
By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.
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