Hold on to your hat, because you are about to find out how fancy I am. I’m about to lay a little French on you. Mirepoix. Roux.
Whoa. I need to take a rest now.
I met Arlene during the first weeks of college back in the early 80s. She was funny, and smart and reminded me a little of my friend Peter, and it’s surprising, in retrospect, how comforting it can be to meet someone who reminds you vaguely of someone you love when you’re 18 and far from home. We lived on different floors of the same dorm, and though we ran in different circles, a visit with Arlene always had some sanity and real-ness that was sorely lacking in my life. I met Doug a couple of years later and when I think of Doug I think of laughing until I cried in the middle of the night when I should have been sleeping. I lost touch with Doug and Arlene after college but they didn’t lose touch with each other, instead they lived together and eventually got married, did something way smart and over my head in the tech industry for several years, and then wound their business down and are driving around America. Still working, actually.
I found them on Facebook in the last couple of years. They are still funny, still real, still smart and when I found out they would be traveling I browbeat them into visiting Vermont.
As I mentioned, when I woke up last Sunday and said not “I feel like showing you all the charming aspects of my hometown” but “I kind of feel like cooking all day,” they were on it.
I had three heads of cauliflower, because I am bad at CSA, so I roasted one with some other vegetables and Arlene made something along the lines of this Cauliflower Mac and Cheese with the other two. There’s no mac in it. As we cooked the day away (and also played Bananagrams), Arlene kept saying – “you won’t have to cook this week.” She was right. (also, instead of cream cheese, she used goat cheese, and instead of 1 cup of cream, she used two, probably because I needed the other one. She’s real, but she’s kind of mean. Not really).
I am here to tell you that we ate that Cauliflower with dinner that night, and two other nights this week and it was delicious.
I woke up this morning, and there’s still about 2 cups of it left.
Now: Here comes the French.
I think most soups start with a mirepoix which is roughly equal parts of carrot, celery, and onion.
Something good for thickening stuff, and really indispensable for any kind of cheese sauce is a roux which is equal parts of melted butter and flour. See how fancy that was?
Leftover Arlene’s Cheesy Cauliflower Soup
- 2ish cups of Arlene’s leftover cheesy cauliflower
- 2 small carrots, 1 small onion, and a stalk of celery, chopped into a mirepoix
- Some olive oil
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- 2 tablespoons unbleached whole wheat flour
- 1 12 oz beer
- 1 tablespoon horseradish
- 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
- 4 cups of stock
- Some cumin, because cumin makes everything wonderful (you can also use something that makes you equally happy
- Chop up the stuff for your mirepoix. In a soup pot, heat a little olive oil (setting – 7) and sauté until everything’s a little bit soft. (about 3 minutes?) Scoop it out and set it aside.
- In the same pot, melt the butter, get a phone call while you’re trying to get the flour out of the cabinet, burn the damned butter, throw it out, melt more butter, and then stir the flour into the melted butter. Add the beer, first a little at a time, and then all at once. Whisk out the lumps from cutting corners on this step. Add the horseradish.
- Stir in the cheese, a handful at a time, until it’s all melted.
- Stir in the stock.
- Throw the sautéd mirepoix back in there.
- Turn the heat up high, bring it to a boil, and then turn it way down (setting – 2)
- Simmer for a while. Check it every five minutes unless you want just a big lump of cheese on the bottom of the pan.
- When the carrots are all cooked, and squishy, throw in the cauliflower and cook for about 5-10 more minutes.
- Blend the soup with an immersion blender.
Some thoughts about this soup:
- Holy Toledo is it ever good!
- Melted cheese does not wreak the havoc you would think on an immersion blender.
- For the love of all that is good and holy wash that pan fast.
- Now I am thinking about trying to make tomato bread somehow for croutons and turn the grilled cheese and tomato soup world on its head.
- Old friends are the best.