As the temperature dips down to the 40s and and the sun begins to set earlier and earlier, we know it’s time to make a hearty, cozy soup to keep our spirits up. A quick trip to the market to pick up the few things we didn’t already have: a big head of cauliflower, a block of our favorite Cabot Creamery Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese, a little crème fraîche (though sour cream is a fine substitute), and some good bread for the garlic-butter croutons. Cauliflower-Cheddar Soup is one of our favorite winter comforts, and we think you’ll like it too.
A few thoughts about cauliflower
Matt and I both really like cauliflower, though we’re no fanatics. You won’t find a cauliflower pizza crust in our house, but Roasted Cauliflower with Whipped Feta? Or served Mughlai-style in a creamy Almond Curry? Sign us up.
Emily wrote an article on cauliflower and its local Hudson Valley aficionados for The Valley Table magazine (it includes some more fun recipes, go check it out). The vegetable used to be a staple in farms in our part of New York, especially the Catskills. A hundred years ago, cauliflower was known locally as “white gold” as it grew so well in the cool, moist mountain climate. Until the early half of the 20th century, our region supplied the cauliflower to the entire country. Eventually California’s vast farms began to dominate the vegetable economy, and they still do to this day (damn you, perfect California weather!).
Luckily, you can still find excellent local cauliflower from September all the way to late December. Even when it’s not local, cauliflower is almost always available year round, so this is a great soup to make any time of year.
it’s all about The Cheese
Since cauliflower-cheddar soup has so few ingredients, you want to make sure that each element adds as much flavor as possible. That’s why we use Cabot Creamery Extra Sharp Cheddar because it has rich, buttery flavor, along with the signature tang. It’s the perfect foil for the silky, sweet cauliflower.
Cabot Creamery makes some of our favorite cheddars — they’re a co-operative of around 800 farms in New York and New England who, as a certified B Corporation, adhere to the highest standards of land stewardship and sustainable farming. We also genuinely love all their products!
Let’s make soup
Making this soup could not be easier. Sauté some chopped onions in butter until they turn golden. Try not to brown them too much, just to keep the lovely pale color of the soup. Add the garlic and let it cook with the onions for a minute.
Then add the stock. We love using homemade chicken or turkey stock but good store-bought is fine, as is vegetable broth if you want a vegetarian soup. Add the cauliflower, potatoes, bay leaves and thyme, raise the heat to medium-high and bring it all to a boil.
Lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook until the cauliflower and potatoes are very tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. You should be able to pierce the vegetables with a paring knife with little to no resistance. Remove the bay leaves and discard them. Work in batches as needed to carefully transfer the vegetables and broth to a blender. Note: Do not fill the blender past the maximum fill line or the soup could overflow!
Remove the knob from the lid of the blender (to allow the steam to escape), and hold a tea towel over the hole to prevent any hot soup from spraying out. Blend until the mix becomes completely smooth. Repeat with the rest of the soup. (You could also use an immersion blender straight in the pot, but the results won’t be quite as silky smooth).
Return the blended soup to the pot, bring it back to a gentle simmer and stir in the crème fraîche (or sour cream) and fresh nutmeg. Whisk in the 1 1/2 cups of the cheese, a handful at a time, stirring constantly, until its melted and fully combined. Taste and adjust the seasoning with kosher salt and pepper, as desired.
Three words: Garlic Butter Croutons
While the soup is simmering, make the Garlic-Butter Croutons. Start off by heating the oven to 350ºF and set a rack in the middle. Add the butter, olive oil, and garlic to a small saucepan set on medium-low heat. Cook, stirring often, until butter melts and the garlic just beings to sizzle, about 3 minutes. Be careful not to let the garlic become too brown. Turn off the heat. Add the bread to large bowl and pour the garlic-butter over the cubes. Toss until all the cubes are lightly coated. Season with salt and pepper and toss again. Transfer the bread to a rimmed baking sheet, spreading them out to a single layer. Bake until they turn golden brown and crunchy, about 15 to 20 minutes. The croutons will keep in an airtight container for 1 week.
Ladle, top, serve
Ladle the hot cauliflower-cheddar soup into bowls, then top with a little of the reserved cheddar and a few croutons. We like to make the bowls a little sexy with a swirl of good, peppery olive oil, a sprinkle of chili flakes for heat, and a light scattering of herbs, if we have any laying around (we used fennel fronds, but snipped chives, parsley or dill would be great as well).
Ultra Silky Cauliflower-Cheddar Soup with Garlic Butter Croutons
- Blender or stick blender
For the Soup:
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 large yellow onions diced (about 3 cups)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus more, to taste
- 1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper plus more, to taste
- 3 large garlic cloves minced
- 6 cups homemade or low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 large or 2 small cauliflower separated into small florets and core diced, (about 2 pounds)
- 3 medium Yukon gold potatoes peeled and diced (about 2 1/2 cups)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 8 ounces grated extra sharp cheddar cheese, divided (2 cups)
- 1/4 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
For the Garlic Croutons
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large garlic cloves minced or grated
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 Italian or country or sourdough loaf, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1/2 pound, 3 cups cubes)
- Spicy red chili flakes
- Chopped soft herbs like dill, parsley or chives
- Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Make the Soup:
- Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven set over medium heat. Add the onions, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the onions turn soft and golden, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the stock, cauliflower, potatoes, bay leaves and thyme, raise the heat to medium-high and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the cauliflower and potatoes are very tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and discard. Work in batches as needed to carefully transfer the vegetables and broth to a blender and blend until completely smooth. (You could also use an immersion blender but the results won’t be quite as smooth). Note: Do not fill the blender past the maximum fill line or the soup could overflow!
- Return the blended soup to the pot, bring it back to a gentle simmer and stir in the creme fraiche and nutmeg. Whisk in the 1 1/2 cups of the cheese, a handful at a time, stirring constantly, until melted and combined. Taste and adjust seasoning with kosher salt and pepper, as needed.
While the soup is simmering, make the croutons:
- Heat the oven to 350ºF and set a rack in the middle. Add the butter, olive oil, and garlic to a small saucepan. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, until butter melts and the garlic just beings to sizzle, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the bread to large bowl and pour the garlic-butter over the cubes. Toss until all the cubes are lightly coated. Season with salt and pepper and toss again. Transfer the bread to a rimmed baking sheet, spreading them out to a single layer. Bake until they turn golden brown and crunchy, about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Divide into bowls top with a sprinkling of the reserved cheese, a few garlic-butter croutons, and if desired, a swirl of olive oil, some chili flakes and a sprinkle of chopped herbs.