Sunday, March 9, 2014

Roasted Cauliflower Soup With Smoked Paprika

Four years ago I posted a Roasted Cauliflower Soup recipe that my friend Roger makes, and I love it so much that I must revisit it again here on Kitchen Fiddler.  This soup has made frequent appearances on my table—and on my friends’ tables—more so than any other soup in my repertoire. I made a version with smoked paprika the other day, and it was as though culinary lightning had struck.

The remarkable thing about this soup is how luxurious it tastes while actually being quite guilt-free.  In fact, I often prepare it as a vegan dish by using vegetable stock, and yet it still tastes as luxurious as if I’d poured a quart of cream into it.  The richness comes from roasting the cauliflower with olive oil and salt, letting it caramelize to a deep nutty brown.

This recipe lends itself well to variation.  I’ve done different versions of this, adding other vegetables to the onion-garlic base and changing up the seasonings with the roasted cauliflower.  My original version is sweetened with lots of carrot and fragrant thyme, served with a drizzle of golden olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese on top.  I’ve had happy results cooking diced wild mushrooms along with the onions, finishing it with a few drops of truffle oil to echo the earthy mushroom quality.  But this smoked paprika version is my new favorite.

I love using sultry Spanish smoked paprika, also known as Pimenton de la Vera.  It can range in intensity from Sweet to Bittersweet to Hot, and I find its smoky flavor absolutely intoxicating. When combined with the complex roasted quality of the cauliflower, the smoked paprika turns this soup into something quite swoon-worthy.

March came in like a lion, so we’re not quite out of the woods yet in terms of the cold weather, which means that there will be soup on my table for at least another few weeks.  But when that soup in question is this outrageous cauliflower concoction, I couldn’t be happier about it.

One Year Ago: The Perfect Milk Frother
Three Years Ago: Carla Hall's Asparagus Soup
Four Years Ago: Roasted Cauliflower Soup
Five Years Ago: Coconut Cupcakes

This recipe was originally from my friend Roger Wagner, who was inspired by a soup he enjoyed in a midtown French restaurant (name unknown). The important thing is to really roast the cauliflower to a deep golden brown, as that is an essential component of this soup’s complex flavor. I used to puree this with an immersion stick blender, but I’ve found that pureeing it thoroughly in a blender gives this soup an irresistibly silky quality.

Smoked paprika can vary in its intensity, so I start with a smaller amount and adding more as I go along.  You can always add more if it’s not smoky and hot enough for you.

1 large head of cauliflower
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for roasting
1 large Spanish onion
2 to 3 cloves garlic
2 large stalks celery
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 to 4 tablespoons smoked Spanish paprika, divided
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock, plus more for pureeing as needed

Preheat the oven to 425°.  Cut the cauliflower into small florets and place on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil.  Coat them liberally with olive oil, season with a few grinds of sea salt and fresh pepper.  Roast until deep golden brown for about 45 minutes, stirring several times to make sure they brown evenly. 

While the cauliflower is roasting, heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat.  Add the diced onion and cook for about 10 minutes until it begins to soften.  Add the garlic, celery, salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon of the smoked paprika.  Lower the heat to medium-low, and continue to cook until all the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently to make sure the veggies don’t stick to the pan.

When the cauliflower has finished roasting, add it to the pan with the onion mixture.  Pour in the stock and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and let the soup cook at a gentle simmer for about 10 minutes.  When the cauliflower is very soft, remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes. Stir in 1 more tablespoon smoked paprika. 

Puree the soup in batches in a blender until silky smooth.  If the soup is too thick, add a bit more water or stock to reach the desired consistency.  Taste for seasoning, adding 1 to 2 more tablespoons of the smoked paprika till you reach the level of heat you want.  Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.  Serve with an additional pinch of smoked paprika on top.  Makes 4 to 6 servings.

No comments: