CAULIFLOWER SOUP, All Dressed Up!

This is the first recipe I cooked from Thomas Keller’s new book “Ad Hoc“.  He calls it “Cream of Cauliflower Soup with Red Beet Chips.” Fair enough, but I wish the name was a bit more catchy, because the recipe sure deserves it.  😉
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I’ve made many types of cauliflower soup, from simple versions (cauliflower, onions and water) to involved interpretations in which the cauliflower is first roasted, then paired with different spices, truffle oil, etc…. you get the picture.

Thomas Keller’s recipe takes the soup to a new level. Not only because the red chips refine its look, but because it also tastes refined. You’ll swoon over the first spoonful, and then wonder if any other mix of flavors could work so well together.

CREAM OF CAULIFLOWER SOUP with RED BEET CHIPS
(adapted from Keller’s “Ad Hoc”)

1 head of cauliflower
2 T butter
3/4 cup chopped yellow onions
1/8 tsp curry powder (I used hot curry from Penzey’s)
kosher salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 + 1/2 cups water
peanut oil for frying beet chips
1 beet
1 tsp white vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
black pepper, freshly ground

Make the soup….
Remove the leaves and core of the cauliflower, separate about 1 cup of good-looking florets, not larger than a quarter, and reserve them.  Chop the rest of the cauliflower in chunks of similar size.  Melt 1.5 T of butter in a large saucepan, add the chopped onions, curry powder, and cauliflower, sprinkle 1 tsp salt, and cover the whole mixture with parchment paper, making a “false lid” right on top of the cauliflower.  Cover the saucepan with its regular lid, cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower starts to get tender.

Remove the parchment paper, add milk, cream, and water to the pan, and simmer, skimming the foam every now and then, for 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the mixture to a blender (I did it in three batches), and blend until fully smooth.  Adjust the seasoning.

Make the red beet chips….
Peel the beet (wear gloves) and make paper-thin slices using a mandoline. Ideally, you want to use only nice, full circles (good luck!).  Heat the peanut oil (about 1 inch of oil in a deep pan), and once it is hot but not smoking, add a few beet rounds. Fry them until they stop bubbling hard, it should take a little over 1 minute. Place them on a baking sheet over paper towels, seasoning with a little salt right after frying.  If needed, keep them warm in a 200F oven.

Cook the reserved florets….
Bring some salted water to a boil, add the teaspoon of vinegar, and cook the reserved florets until tender, about 5 minutes.  Drain them.  Right before serving, melt the remaining 1/2 T butter in a small pan and allow it to get dark golden. Watch it carefully, because burned butter is nasty, and tastes bitter. Once the butter is turning a nice golden brown, add the florets and saute them until golden too.

Serve the soup….
If the soup is too thick, thin it with a little water.  Ladle it into a bowl, add some cauliflower florets in the center, and a few beet chips on top.  Serve more florets and chips alongside.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here.

Comments: My only modifications were to slightly reduce the amount of heavy cream, and omit the croutons called for in the original recipe. Keller recommends serving a few chips on the soup itself, and the rest on a separate plate, because they may get soggy. I actually didn’t find that a problem: they released a bit of red juice into the velvety soup, creating a nice visual appeal, and they weren’t soggy to the point of losing their texture.

You’ll notice that he uses a false parchment lid over the veggies, an important step.  The dish has little liquid at that point, basically only some moisture released by the onions – by using the parchment “lid”, you lock the moisture in, and at the same time the curry becomes nicely toasted and permeates the cauliflower more efficiently.

Making the beet chips was an adventure… The book shows a photo of Thomas Keller in a pristine looking kitchen, with perfect rounds of chips resting on a baking sheet, well organized in perfect rows. It made me feel… let’s say…. a little inadequate…   My kitchen looked like the set of a horror movie, red beet juice everywhere, and carbonized chips begging for the trash can to end their misery.  Oh, well – at least I managed to get enough chips to serve to the two of us.

This is a classy soup, so if you are into soup shots to open a dinner party, it could be a fine option.

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BBA#23: PANE SICILIANO

I’ve made this bread about a year ago, and it didn’t turn out very good, so I was not exactly thrilled to make it this weekend for the BBA Challenge.  It takes three days from beginning to end, on the first day you make a pate fermentee, on the second day you make the dough and shape the bread, put it in the fridge overnight and bake next morning.
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My pictures tell you two things: first, I had problems shaping the dough, instead of a nice S shape, it got kind of bulky. Second , the bread had almost zero oven spring (a term used by bakers referring to how much the bread rises during baking).  My loaves ended up quite small, a problem that also happened to Paul (you can check his website following a link at the end of my post).

It tasted ok, but not great, a little too dry for my taste. I don’t think I’ll be making it again.

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Check out the loaves made by my virtual friends ahead of me in the BBA Challenge:

Paul….

Carolyn

Oggi

Joelen

Mags

and TxFarmer

Next in this baking journey: panettone! Looking forward to it…

POTATO AND LEEK BRAISE

This recipe comes from  “All About Braising“, by Molly Stevens. My copy sits patiently waiting on the shelf during the hot summer months, knowing that when Fall arrives, it will come out to play again.

For the first braise of the year, I chose a potato and leek dish, that starts as a braise, but almost turns into a gratin.  I say almost because it’s quite a bit lighter.  As Molly writes:  “the recipe practically cooks itself“.   All you  do is cut the potatoes and leeks, assemble the dish, pop it into the oven and walk away.
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THE SIMPLEST POTATO AND LEEK BRAISE
(adapted from Molly Stevens)

2 medium leeks (about 1 pound, white and light green parts only)
1 pound yellow potatoes (Yukon Gold)
butter for greasing the dish
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper
1 + 1/4 cup chicken stock, heated to almost boiling
1/4  cup half and half (or heavy whipping cream)

Heat oven to 325F.

Chop the leeks in 3/4 inch pieces, add them to a bowl of very cold water and wash them well to remove any clinging sand and grit.  Drain. Repeat. Drain them well and add to a well buttered gratin type dish, preferably shallow (I used a 8 x 12 inch dish).

Peel the potatoes and cut them into 3/4 inch chunks. Add them to the dish with the leeks, season with thyme, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Toss with a spatula, spreading the potatoes in a single layer.  Pour the hot stock over the mixture, cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and place it in the oven.

Braise (cook covered in the oven) for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, stir the potatoes and leeks, check for the amount of liquid remaining. If it’s almost dry, cover again with foil; if the liquid is still about halfway up the sides of the dish, then leave it uncovered (as I did).  Continue to braise for 20-25 minutes more.

Remove the dish from the oven, increase the temperature to 425F, stir the leeks and potatoes and pour in the half-and-half (or heavy cream). Return the dish to the oven, uncovered, and bake until bubbly and browned on top, about 25 minutes.

Let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.

ENJOY!

To print the recipe, click here

Comments: This dish could very well be defined as the braised version of the classic vichyssoise, one of the best soups ever.    Serve it alongside any meat;  roast chicken or prime rib are perfect.   Lately I’ve been using half-and-half in place of heavy cream and it works for us.  Molly dots the dish with butter before placing  in the oven, I did not.   Adapt it according to your own preferences.

OCTOBER 16th is WORLD BREAD DAY

Sometimes I wonder if I could live without certain foods.  Rice….potatoes…. pasta?  Possibly. Cheese?  The thought makes me  weak in the knees.    Bread?  That’s preposterous,   NO WAY!

I love baking bread almost as much as eating it, so I had to bake bread on World Bread Day. Bakers around the world bake or buy their favorite bread and talk about it.

Please read all about it here

To celebrate this event I chose a sourdough loaf I’ve been contemplating for the longest time…   “Pain de Campagne”  from a recipe adapted by David, a great baker who shares his knowledge  at the forum “The Fresh Loaf

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PAIN DE CAMPAGNE
(adapted from David’s post )

100 g  active sourdough starter
450 g bread flour
50 g rye flour
370 g water
10 g salt
1/4 tsp instant yeast 

In a large bowl, mix the sourdough starter with the water to dissolve it. Add the flours and stir to form a shaggy mass. Cover tightly and let rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle the yeast over the dough and mix by folding a few times. Then sprinkle the salt over the dough and mix.

Stretch and fold the dough 20 times, rotating the bowl slightly between each fold. Cover tightly. Repeat this stretch and fold procedure 20 minutes later and, again, after another 20 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly oiled container and rest it in the fridge for 21 hours.

Take out the dough and scrape it gently onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently pat it into a rectangle. Pre-shape for  a loaf  by folding  the near edge up just past the center of the dough and sealing it pressing with the heel of your hand.   Then, bring the far edge of the dough gently just over the sealed edge and seal it again the same way.

Cover the dough with  a kitchen towel and let it rest for 30-60 minutes, with the seams up.  Finish shaping the bread by folding the near edge of the dough and sealing it again, then taking the far edge of the dough and bringing  it towards you all the way to the work surface, sealing the seam with the heel of your hand. Gently rotate the loaf toward you 1/4 turn so the last seam formed is against the work surface and roll the loaf back and forth, to finish sealing the seam.

Place a baking stone (or baking tiles)  on the middle rack of the oven and heat it to 470F.   Fill a large roasting pan with hot water. Once the shaped loaf is just 1.5 times bigger (not quite doubled in size), slash the top with a single cut all the way along the bread, and place it over the tiles.  Mine proofed for only 35 minutes.  Empty the roasting pan, leaving the residual hot water just clinging to it, and flip it over to cover the dough.  Bake covered for 30 minutes, remove the cover and bake for 10-15 minutes more, until the internal temperature reaches at least 205F.

Remove the bread to a rack and cool it for 2 hours before slicing.

ENJOY!

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This bread is simply perfect.  The crumb is, as my husband described it  ” hearty but at the same time  silky in your mouth “.  David, thank you so much for a great recipe!

Let’s hope that everyone can enjoy a nice piece of bread today, World Bread Day…

Here are some photos of this loaf in the making.

The dough, after 21 hours in the fridge is airy, all bubbly… (21 hours in the fridge make this a perfect bread to bake during the work week: prepare it the day before, put it in the fridge and finish when you arrive from work the next day).

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The shaped loaf …

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Slashed….

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After removing the cover at 30 min ….

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Cooling…. (the hardest part is the waiting…. 😉

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NEW COOKBOOK in the HOUSE

I arrived home to see a package on my doorstep…

THIS is what I got:

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Thomas Keller has written several amazing books, such as Bouchon, The French Laundry, and Under Pressure.   Once in a blue moon we indulge in a three-star restaurant, but I have no inclination to produce gastronomical masterpieces at home.  I admire people who do it, and I followed Carol’s adventures as she cooked her way through The French Laundry, and watch her ongoing work through Alinea.  Amazing stuff!
But when I learned that Thomas Keller was publishing a cookbook with “family-style” recipes from his restaurant Ad Hoc, I pre-ordered it.  Now I’m looking forward to cooking from it.   As with all my new acquisitions, I’m in the phase of carrying the book with me from sofa to bed, bed to kitchen table, back to the sofa,  while reading, savoring, dreaming.   Like a kid in a candy store, I’m still trying to decide which recipe will be THE FIRST.

Life is good… 😉