Around the holidays, my mom often serves soup and sandwiches for a low-key meal the night before she’s serving a larger, more labor-intensive one. I’ve taken this tradition to heart. Not only is soup comforting for traveling guests, it’s also a welcome dish for the cook because it can be prepared in advance.
Inspired by a side dish of cauliflower with pears, sage, and hazelnuts from Andrew Carmellini’s Urban Italian, I took these same flavors and turned them into a fall soup. This soup is all about building layers of flavor -- you start with leeks and shallot, then lightly brown the cauliflower, potato, and pear with sage and thyme before adding chicken stock for a lazy simmer on the stove. You then puree the soup until it’s silky and smooth. I considered finishing the soup with cream or milk but decided it’s lovely without it.
The pear is definitely the secret weapon here -- it adds a subtle sweetness and marries perfectly with the other flavors. A prosciutto panini or simple grilled cheese sandwich makes a perfect accompaniment. Fear not making this soup for the self-avowed cauliflower haters in your family -- it's sure to win them over.
Test Kitchen Notes
Pear and Sherry vinegar are the star ingredients of this comforting autumn soup, adding a crucial hint of sweetness and complexity to what could otherwise be a fairly bland standby. Creamy and light, it fairly calls out improvisational touches, so feel free to play around by adding a crumble of Stilton, a scattering of crisp fried sage leaves, or a dollop of wasabi. - Kukharka —mitschlag
4 to 6
1 T olive oil
2 T butter
1 large leek, white and light green parts, chopped
1 small shallot, chopped
1 head cauliflower, green leaves and trunk removed, florets chopped
2 small yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large or 2 small pears, peeled, cored, and chopped
5 leaves fresh sage (or about 2 tsp chopped)
1 T chopped fresh thyme leaves
5 to 6 cups chicken stock
kosher salt + freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 tsp sherry vinegar, or to taste (champagne vinegar also works well)
Heat the oil and butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the leek and shallot, and cook until they are soft, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
Add the cauliflower, potato, pear, sage, and thyme, stirring to thoroughly coat them with the oil and butter. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until lightly browned, stirring frequently, another 8 to 10 minutes. You're aiming for a little caramelization around the edges for depth of flavor.
Add 5 cups chicken stock. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, lower heat to just maintain the simmer, and cook until all of the ingredients are very tender, about 30 minutes.
With an immersion blender or regular blender, puree the soup until it’s smooth. If using a blender, you may need to do this step in batches, then return to pot. You're looking for a smooth, velvety texture, so take your time to blend thoroughly. Thin with more chicken stock, if needed, until you reach desired consistency.
Season to taste with vinegar and salt and pepper. Serve in heated bowls, garnished with chives.