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Roasted Cauliflower Soup w/ Crispy Zucchini

It’s officially soup season. Crisp cool air coupled with daylight savings time promotes cooking savory, hearty, and belly warming dishes. I recently ran into an article featuring a roasted cauliflower soup topped with a chive oil. For some reason, maybe it was the picture, maybe it was the word roasted, this recipe caught my eye. I read on and found that it was fairly simple, but something that could be easily improved upon with a few additions, tweaks, and twists.

It was a very rainy and cold Friday when I set out to the store to grab some ingredients and a little more inspiration. Perfect soup weather. After grabbing the cauliflower, I thought that leeks would be an awesome substitute for the onion, and personally, I think leeks in soup are outstanding. Bacon was an obvious addition to build the flavor base, so naturally I went with the sweet and salty cured pork product. I decided on adding some veggie stock instead of water or chicken stock to really accent the cauliflower flavor, and then finishing the soup with some cream for a silky smooth finish. Making soup is all about building layers and layers of flavor. This gives the eater that ‘eyes closing ahhhh’ moment. In this instance, it starts with the cooking process for the cauliflower.

In a glass baking dish I coated with some butter, I added the cauliflower head which was broken down into manageable florets. I also added about 1/2 cup of water to the dish to lightly steam the cauliflower as it was roasting away in the oven. 350* for 45 minutes was the final cooking time when the cauliflower was fork tender and began to show some browning on the crowns. Meanwhile in a dutch oven, I had two pieces of bacon rendering along with two thinly diced leeks. The cauliflower was added to this mixture and let cook away for a few minutes. With the pan nice and hot, and the bacon fat almost all rendered, I added some Dry Sherry to essentially deglaze all of the bits on the bottom of the pan. I love using sherry in soups, it really gives great depth and flavor, building those layers. It was then time for the stock. I added enough stock to cover the cauliflower bacon leek mixture, along with some salt, white pepper, and bittersweet paprika. I let this simmer for about 45 minutes, until the cauliflower was nice and soft and had absorbed all of the flavors from the aromatics and stock. I then blended the mixture with an immersion blender very well, until super smooth. I let this sit for another 1o minutes or so before adding the cream. With the cream, I also added a bit more paprika and salt to taste. This was tasting fabulous. The roasted cauliflower combined with the paprika and salt truly shined. The bacon and leeks added nice flavor bases and depth, this soup was killer. To really put this soup over the top, I took some zucchini and lightly breaded it and pan fried it until crispy and laid it on top of the soup along with some parsley-chive oil (chopped parsley & chives, blended with olive oil and then strained through a coffee filter). The soup was incredible and easily the star of dinner that night. I am excited to make this at any opportunity again. Very easy, and very cheap, and very delicious.