Thursday, September 22, 2011

Creamy Cauliflower Soup



Creamy in texture and buttery in flavor, this delicious Cream of Cauliflower Soup makes an elegant beginning to any holiday menu. Called Crème du Barry in France, its name lies in history, like many good French recipes. This easy, rich and creamy soup was named after Madame Jeanne Bécu, comtesse du Barry, a famous French beauty who was the last official mistress of the ill-fated king, Louis XV. At the time, it was a common practice to recognize royalty and other public figures in the naming of new culinary creations, so whenever you see the term du Barry, you know the dish includes cauliflower. 


Jeanne Bécu, comtesse du Barry — the cauliflower lady!


I can think of many foods I might want to be named after, other than cauliflower, but in this case it had to do with the dish being considered “high class” in preparation and presentation...creamy, silky, smooth, and pure. Although, Madame Du Barry was not exactly pure, her legend lives on in this soup. Coincidently, the first time I enjoyed Crème du Barry was when my husband and I were staying at Château Des Briottières, a beautiful family-run 18th century chateau set in the heart of the Loire Valley.


Château Des Briottières


The beautiful Château Des Briottières dining room


The Chateau's menu, drawn from traditional french recipes, was prepared by Hedwig, Francois's wife, who doubled as chef de cuisine on weekends. For the first course, Francois served us the most delicious Crème du Barry, the family's time-honoured recipe for Cream of Cauliflower Soup. It was silky smooth and luxuriously delicious, just like Francois and Château Des Briottières!



Cream of Cauliflower Soup (Crème du Barry)
Serves 6-8

2 tbsp butter
2 cups chopped leeks, white portion only, rinsed well
1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups 10% cream

1 bay leaf
2 tsp sea salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste

fresh chives or chervil, for garnish

In a large soup pot over medium heat, warm the butter. Add the leeks and sauté, stirring constantly, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the cauliflower and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the stock, cream, bay leaf and sea salt, bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is very tender, about 45-60 minutes. Remove the bay leaf.

Using a stick blender, purée the soup directly in the pot until it's very smooth and creamy. Alternatively, use a food processor, and puree the soup in batches. Press the soup through a chinois or other fine-mesh sieve set over a clean saucepan. Season with white pepper. Keep the soup warm over low heat until ready to serve.

Ladle the soup into warmed individual bowls, garnishing each serving with some fresh ground white pepper, snipped chives or chervil. Serve immediately.