Cauliflower. It just immediately conjures up delicious thoughts, doesn’t it… ehh hem, doesn’t it? …hello?!
I know, cauliflower is not at the top of many peoples list of good eats. However this soup, from Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill Cookbook, is really great! It gives the humble cauliflower a starring role, showcasing its soft, smooth, velvety texture and pairing it with the flavorful kick of roasted poblano chilis. Perfect for a cool fall or winter day, this thick and creamy soup with warm you through and through!
Here’s how you make it…
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Cut 2 heads of cauliflower into florets of roughly the same size. You want them to be around the same size so that they cook evenly in the oven. Place the cauliflower in a single layer on an aluminum-foiled lined baking sheet. Drizzle some oil (olive or canola will work just fine) over the cauliflower, somewhere around 3 tablespoons. Then season generously with Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper. Take your hands and move the cauliflower all around to evenly coat the florets with the oil, salt, and pepper.
Pop the baking sheet in the oven for about 25 – 30 minutes, stirring the cauliflower half way through. When the cauliflower is done, it will be fork tender and have some spots of golden-brown. Kind of like this:
Roasting the cauliflower, as with all vegetables, brings out and concentrates its natural sugars. The cauliflower slightly caramelizes during the process, transforming it into something so much better than just, well, cauliflower. This roasting “trick” works with all vegetables by the way… it’s absolutely my favorite way to eat vegetables.
At this point, scrape the cauliflower into a sauce pot and add around 4 cups of chicken stock. You can make your own, which is definitely time consuming but super easy and delicious (recipe for that at the bottom of this post) or you can use store bought chicken or vegetable stock. Obviously, buying stock is the easier route to go, but make sure to buy quality. I typically use Trader Joe’s brand, but I’ve heard that Cooks Illustrated is partial to Swanson.
Bring the cauliflower-stock mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower to a simmer and let it go for about 15-20 minutes. Let cool, then transfer cauliflower to a blender with a slotted spoon. Add in just a couple cups of the stock and purée. Add in more stock as you see fit, until it reaches a thick soup consistency. You might use all the stock, you might not, depending how thick you want the soup to be.
Pour the soup through a fine mesh sieve placed on top of a large bowl. Stir the soup through the fine mesh sieve and discard any solids left behind.
*If you aren’t planning on serving the soup right away, you can refrigerate the cauliflower soup mixture at this point for a day or two until ready to serve.
Last step is an easy one: pour the cauliflower mixture into a pot and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Stir in about 3/4 cup of heavy cream and 2 puréed poblano chiles (keep reading for how to make that). Season with salt and pepper heat until warmed through.
Let’s take a side step here for that poblano purée and also to make the pepper relish garnish (try to say that 5 times fast)…
When the cauliflower was done roasting in the oven, crank up the heat to 375°F. It’s time to roast 3 poblano chiles and 1 red bell pepper. Same process as the cauliflower: put the peppers on an aluminum-lined baking sheet and drizzle with a tablespoon or two of canola oil and sprinkle with Kosher salt and pepper. Use your hand and toss the peppers to evenly coat with the oil. (In the picture below, there are more peppers than you need for this recipe… I was roasting up some additional ones for some other eats).
Put the tray of peppers into the oven. Check on your roasting peppers every now and again, rotating/turning the peppers with tongs about every 6-8 minutes or until the cooked side has blistered with some brown char marks. The poblanos are normally smaller than red bell peppers, so they may be done first. Typically it takes around 20 – 30 minutes depending upon the size of your peppers. They will have brown char marks and wrinkled skin when they are done, kind of like this:
Place your peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for at least 10 minutes. This process will create steam, making the skins easier to peel.
After the 10 minutes (or longer) has passed, peel the skin off the peppers with your fingers and remove the seeds from inside the peppers. The skins should slide right off, but you may have some stubborn spots here and there. ***You might want to wear gloves when peeling and handling these poblano chiles. They can leave your hands (and anywhere your hand touches) with a burning sensation.
Once you are done peeling and seeding, finely chop 1 poblano pepper and the 1 red bell pepper. With the other 2 poblanos, place into a food processor or blender and puree:
So remember, the puréed poblanos = soup / the finely chopped poblano and red pepper = part of garnish. Okay, it’s plating time!
Fill bowls with your soup. I like to garnish mine with a couple cilantro leaves and a “pepper relish” of sorts. Here’s how you make it: Take that finely chopped roasted red bell pepper and poblano chile and place them in a bowl. Hit it with a splash of red wine or sherry vinegar and a squeeze of honey (equal parts honey/vinegar, somewhere around 1 tsp – 1 tbl each). Throw in a pinch of Kosher salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper. Taste and adjust the honey/vinegar/salt/pepper as necessary. This “relish” adds beautiful color to the soup and also brings an added depth of flavor.
Serve some blue corn chips on the side with softened fresh goat cheese. The tangy-ness of the goat cheese goes really well with the richness of this soup.
You are probably going to want more than 3 tortilla chips, but for this picture I just thought it looked nice.