Better late than never. In December Koen and I had a cookout again, and we started with this stunning creamy cauliflower soup with three crispy elements.
From Koen’s copy of Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc At Home cookbook, we chose 3 courses which (as to be expected) kept us busy for the majority of the weekend. Besides the elaborate way to cook the recipes, it was an excellent occasion to use various kitchen appliances, like my ice cream maker, pressure cooker, and our new automatic pasta machine by Philips.
Thomas Keller, celebrity chef and author of a slew of cookbooks is the first and only American chef to have two 3-Michelin-star-rated restaurants, The French Laundry in Yountville, Napa Valley and Per Se in New York City. Furthermore, Keller has six bistros, bakeries, and cafés under the Bouchon moniker, as well as Ad Hoc, also a restaurant in Yountville, which opened in 2006 and is dedicated to classic American cuisine from his childhood.
With Ad Hoc At Home, Thomas Keller brings his everyday kitchen to the home cook in a more accessible manner. Mind you, this wording is used intentionally as the recipes generally still have quite a few elements and are often rather time-consuming. Well worth putting in the effort, though, as all of the dishes that we made were absolutely amazing.
First, we made the Cream of Cauliflower Soup With Beet Chips. It was a huge success. A delicious and velvety smooth soup contrasted by layers of tasty crispiness: the nuttiness of the browned butter-fried cauliflower florets, a hit from the garlicky croutons and the slight sweetness of the beet chips. Whatever you do, don’t skip the beet chips. Even if you don’t really like beets, you will love them as chips as they add texture, color and flavor to the soup.
The recipe (serves 6)
We made it with only minimal adjustments but eventually had to resort to Keller’s own shortcut on the garlic oil as we totally forgot that step…
For the Torn Croutons (the shortcut version):
- 1 small loaf of country bread
- approx 250ml / 1 cup sunflower oil
- 5 fat cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
For the Cream of Cauliflower Soup:
- 1 large head of cauliflower, stem, and core removed, and 2 cups of florets reserved for the garnish (see next step), the remainder coarsely chopped in roughly even-sized chunks
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 leek, white and light green part, coarsely chopped (¾ cup)
- 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped (¾ cup)
- 1 tsp Madras curry powder (Keller only uses ¼ tsp, but given the liquids, we preferred adding a bit more curry)
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 500ml / 2 cups milk (we used semi-skimmed milk)
- 500ml / 2 cups water
- 500ml / 2 cups heavy cream
For the Cauliflower Garnish:
- 2 cups of cauliflower florets
- 1 tsp white vinegar
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
For the Beet Chips:
- 1 medium red beet (we used a Chioggia beet)
- sunflower oil, for deep-frying
- sea salt
- extra virgin olive oil
- freshly ground black pepper
- To prepare the Torn Croutons (the shortcut version)
- Cut the crusts off of the bread and tear the bread into irregular pieces no larger than 2½cm / 1″. You need about 3 cups of croutons.
- Put 3mm / 1/8″ of sunflower oil in a big sauté pan (I needed about 250ml / 1 cup), add the crushed garlic cloves, and heat over low heat until the garlic cloves are golden brown (about 15 minutes), flipping the cloves occasionally.
- Remove the garlic from the pan and adjust the heat to medium. Spread the bread in a single layer in the pan (or use 2 smaller ones if your pan is not large enough and add the butter. The oil and butter should be bubbling, not sizzling, as in that case, the heat is too high.
- Stir the croutons often as they cook until crisp and rich golden brown on all sides (about 15 minutes), remove from the heat, and move the croutons to one side of the pan.
- In the meantime, prepare the Cream of Cauliflower Soup:
- Melt the 3 tbsp of butter in a large pot on medium heat.
- Add the onion, leek, Madras curry powder, and coarsely chopped cauliflower and cover the pot with a parchment lid (just cut a circle from baking paper slightly larger than the diameter of your pot) and cook for about 20 minutes until the vegetables are almost tender. Remove and discard the parchment lid.
- Add the milk, cream, and water and increase heat to medium-high. Then reduce heat to simmer the contents for 30 minutes
- Allow the soup to cool for about 5 minutes, and puree in the blender/kitchen machine until smooth and velvety. You will likely need to work in batches.
- Return to the pot and add more salt if needed and keep warm. This is a rather thick soup, but if it seems too thick, just add a bit of water to thin it to the desired consistency.
- To prepare the Beet Chips for the garnish:
- Fill a small deep pot with about 2½cm / 1″ of sunflower oil and heat over medium heat to 150℃/300℉.
- Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet. Line the rack with paper towels.
- Slice the beet super thin with a Japanese mandolin or vegetable cutter
- Working in small batches of 6-8, fry the beet rounds in the oil, turning them with a wire skimmer or slotted spoon as the edges begin to curl and pressing gently on the chips to keep them submerged in the oil. At first, you will see a great deal of bubbling around the beets as the moisture evaporates; when this bubbling stops – after 1 to 1½ minutes – the beets should be nice and crispy.
- Place the fried beets chips onto the paper-towel-lined rack and season with sea salt.
- To prepare the reserved cauliflower garnish:
- Take the cauliflower florets that you had set aside and boil in water with the salt and vinegar for 5 minutes until the florets are just tender,
- Drain the florets a melt the remaining 1 tbsp of butter in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat, until the butter turns a golden brown.
- Add the cauliflower florets to the pan and sauté them until a rich golden brown. Set aside.
- Serve the cauliflower soup in bowls and top with the fried florets, torn croutons, and lastly, the beet chips on top. Finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a good grind of fresh black pepper.