A friend of mine who used to work in a hotel had a very odd job: naming the soup. I am sure he did other things as well, but each day he had to taste and name whatever the chef had put into the stock pot (my friend had some real reservations about some of the things that went into that pot, but that’s a story for another day). He didn’t know much about soup and would pick labels that were seasonal and hinted vaguely at the ingredients but didn’t make any promises. I seem to recall names like “Spring Vegetable Medley” or “Summer Surprise.”
I was thinking about him the other day when I cobbled together a soup from a few not-quite-right ingredients I had at hand: the wrong kind of stock, a cauliflower that had seen better days, not quite enough cream, a couple of small onions and some spice.
I make a lot of creamy cauliflower soup because it’s easy and has become a family favourite (kids will eat cauliflower if, and only if, they can’t see cauliflower). It’s a great soup for early fall days when cauliflower is inexpensive and you really crave something rich and filling.
I always make this soup the same way, a little onion sweated in a pot till soft, a tablespoon of curry powder, some sliced carrot and a head of cauliflower that is boiled until fork tender in chicken stock. Puree with an immersion blender and, presto, you’re done.
But this week I found myself out of key ingredients. No chicken stock, just beef. No curry powder and no will power to grind some up. No carrots; just a half-a-cup-or-so of leftover cream and a head of cauliflower that was getting a bit squidgy (I always buy too many when they’re cheap).
I figured, if I was going to use beef stock, I would need to boost the other flavours to keep up with the stronger taste of the beef. So, I roasted the cauliflower at 400 F for 20 minutes or so to caramelize it and enhance the flavour.
Then, lacking curry, if not courage, I tossed the cauliflower with quite a little bit of smoked hot paprika, salt and pepper and put it in the pot with the stock and onions. After simmering for a few minutes until the cauliflower were really tender, I puréed, prayed and stirred in the cream.
The first taste told me I was on to something. A little too much paprika, perhaps, but altogether a creamy, smoky, roasty, beefy, cauliflowery delight. I topped it with a crostini and a bit of bacon, and we ate. The reviews were good and the left-overs went into the freezer in lunch-size containers (always a good sign that L isn’t just being polite).
The only point of contention in the entire meal was what to call the soup. L (perhaps because she had to write the labels) wanted to keep it simple: Cauliflower soup. I wanted the name to reflect the complexity of the recipe (and the creativity of the cook). In the end, the labels remained blank and the soup went into the freezer anonymously.
Where is my soup naming friend when I need him?