Ultra Silky Cauliflower-Cheddar Soup with Garlic Butter Croutons
Cozy as a sweater (but fancy, like a nice cashmere one), this Cauliflower-Cheddar soup is silky and rich, even without any heavy cream. It's incredibly easy to make, and absolutely packed with flavor from caramelized onions and tangy extra-sharp cheddar cheese. Crunchy Garlic-Butter Croutons are the perfect topper.
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.
This soup keeps well in the refrigerator, covered, for about 4 days, or for several months in the freezer.
The croutons will keep in an airtight container for 1 week.