Cauliflower Soup

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.

Mystery Soup

By calendargirl

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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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Set aside to cool slightly for about 10-15 minutes.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Jennifer Steinhauer

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phyllis January 22, 2011
Jenny & calendargirl, I cooked this soup as the first course for dinner tonight for my family, including my 3.5 (hates vegetables; loves fruit) and 6.5 year old grandsons. The 3.5 ate two helpings; the 6.5 year old ate one helping, dinner and asked for more soup. As they were leaving, Jack (6.5) asked me if I could cook this soup for every dinner (they eat at our house at least three times a week). "Grandma, of all the delicious soups you cook, I love this one the most." It was delicious--I added some nutmeg, and would have added blue cheese, but the soup was so good in it's 'pure' form, I decided not to this time.

Jack & Wes and the rest of our family thank you for this addition to my vast soup collection.
calendargirl January 24, 2011
So glad!
Jolan January 21, 2011
Jenny, this comment is not in praise so much of the soup (cauliflower is one of the few foods, no matter how vigorously and virtuously I try, I cannot bring myself to like), so much as your writing. Every time the food52 newsletter pops into my inbox, I eagerly click on the link to your blog. I must say, even given that Ms. Hesser is one of my favorite food writers -- whilst decorating a cake at work one day, a customer said to me, "Give it up, you'll never be Cake Boss," and I replied, "But I want to be Amanda Hesser!" -- your posts, cauliflower or no, are what pull me into the site every week.

So, thanks, and keep the soups coming!
Jestei January 22, 2011
I JUST read this comment. It is so sweet and wonderful and warmed my heart, which is no small thing since it is 14 degrees out. THANK YOU for this and I look forward to "seeing" you here!
randipie January 19, 2011
Made this last night, plus a sprinkling of some crispy bacon. It was pretty amazing! I brought some leftovers to work today with a little bit of grated parmesan on top. So easy and delicious!
Jestei January 22, 2011
Refrigerator M. January 17, 2011
Cauliflower soup is one of my staples, but never with lemon. Also usually have a potato in there for additional creamy texture. Definitely will try this version!
Jestei January 18, 2011
I hope you like it!
Loves P. January 17, 2011
The call of cauliflower is in the air. I made a similar soup this weekend using carrots and cauliflower; leeks instead of onions. I added a little curry at the end. It was startling how much difference creme fraiche and lemon made to the soup. Next time, I'm going to roast the vegetables first. Thank you for your recipe. It's always inspirational to see what loving cooks contribute.
Jestei January 18, 2011
yum i hope you post that recipe in its entirety i would like to try it
barbarac January 17, 2011
Looks so delicious - will be whipping this up tonight. My preferred addition to my usual cauliflower soup is as follows: Puree two roasted red peppers with a little olive oil until extremely smooth. Spiral a beautiful ribbon of red on top of the soup before serving. Add a lovely sweetness and beautiful color.
Jestei January 18, 2011
that sounds lovely
DanaDish January 16, 2011
When I did not have a lemon, I added a peeled, chopped Granny Smith apple along with the first cup of broth. It also gives pleasant touch of tartness that balances the slight caramelization of the cauliflower and onions.
Jestei January 18, 2011
awesome idea i love granny smiths they add so much to so many dishes
AlohaHoya January 16, 2011
Thank you so much!!! Husband now loves broccolli/cheddarcheese soup (he hates broccolli) and hopefully he will love this as well (doesn't like cauliflower). Roasting it would be excellent! LOVE the way you deal with food!!!!! Carol
Jestei January 18, 2011
hope he ate it!!
calendargirl January 15, 2011
OMG and yikes! I just now saw this, and am delighted that you made Mystery Soup this week. I have been tending my ancient failing parents for the past few weeks, one in hospital and one almost there (as well as editing the final college essays for the daughter in whose honor we named this soup), and have been totally AWOL from food52 and most of the rest of my life. Such a treat to find this post at this moment.

I like your idea of roasting the cauliflower Jenny, and the additions of blue cheese, bacon and kale are all terrific. Homemade stock is indeed best, and the soup is better on day three. Jenny, your congressional beat has been injected with a horrific event, so strange. I admire your writing tremendously, and having the NYT with me these past days has had a grounding effect: the one familiar piece of my day that I have managed somehow to maintain. Thank you.
Jestei January 18, 2011
thank you. i love this recipe and look forward to making more of your items.
annalea January 13, 2011
made this tonight to great success! I added a small bunch of chopped dino kale so my soup was a lovely light green. very nice and basic, but full of flavor at the same time.
Jestei January 14, 2011
i like that idea
Rivka January 11, 2011
The cauli/creme fraiche/chicken stock sounds like a familiar combination, but then calendargirl runs away with the lemon, and I'm totally enchanted. Wish I had cauliflower in the house.
Jestei January 14, 2011
did you get some?
amysarah January 11, 2011
I make a pretty similar, simple cauliflower soup but never thought of adding lemon - it must brighten it up a little.Sometimes I serve mine with a scattering of crumbled bacon on top (and tiny homemade croutons if I'm feeling fiddly) because that smokey-ness works so well with cauliflower - so I also like your idea of roasting it first. Going to try that next time. Thanks!
Jestei January 11, 2011
bacon is rarely wrong. this soup takes great on day three by the way.
drbabs January 10, 2011
Dear Jenny,
When you wrote this did you already know that we all needed a little bowl of comfort right about now? You have a gift for capturing the essence: your mother-in-law grieving her husband; a politician senselessly gunned down while doing her work; soup on a cold winter's night. Thank you for sharing your many gifts with us.
Jestei January 11, 2011
thanks for reading, and you lovely comments, as ever. xx oo
drbabs January 14, 2011
Front page of the Times today--woo-hoo!
xx oo
Helenec January 10, 2011
okay steinhauer, i could walk over to your desk and ask but you're on the phone....was the result really creamy? the photo above looks a little less so, but you noted that you put less chicken stock in there so i'm wondering if you made it thicker? love the idea of roasting the cauliflower with olive oil. and is it really green or white? i thought cauliflower was white?
Jestei January 10, 2011
my soup was roughly this color; it is creamy after you add that CF but the veg is quite hearty
mrslarkin January 10, 2011
Thanks, Jenny, and calendargirl, for a lovely recipe. How I wish life's answers were as simple as a bowl of soup.
Jestei January 10, 2011
Daphne K. January 10, 2011
This sounds amazing with the lemon and creme Fraiche- a williams-sonoma recipe I use adds crumbled blue cheese on top of their Cauliflower soup which is awesome!
Jestei January 10, 2011
oh man that sounds divine
mklug January 10, 2011
After also reading your piece mcs3000 referenced and this, I took a deep breath and felt deeply comforted. Thank you as always, Jenny! And be careful out there--I remember one icy December out in DC where my car slid backwards all the way down an off-ramp to Alexandria. Definately needed some steamy yummy soup that day.
Jestei January 10, 2011
soup isn't the balm for all of life's travails, but it does help!
mcs3000 January 10, 2011
This is a really lovely post, Jenny. So was your piece on Rep. Giffords. Thank you.
Midge January 10, 2011
I second mcs3000 on both counts. And thanks for unearthing this elegant recipe.
Jestei January 10, 2011
thanks to both mcs3000 and Midge and I really hope you make this soup!
phyllis January 10, 2011
This sounds delicious and incredibly easy. I'll definitely add it to my soup collection.

A little bit more time consuming, but very delicious, is Daniel Boulud's cauliflower and apple soup, which is a real favorite of my family.
phyllis January 10, 2011
I sent you a tweet on about your article last night. It was very touching. Thank you.
Jestei January 10, 2011
thank you muchly. i appreciate it!!