Creamy, yet packed with veggies, this cauliflower soup with fennel croutons is one of our favorite winter meals.
For those who think cauliflower is just white broccoli (and who aren’t too thrilled with broccoli by the way) change your thinking. We too once thought cauliflower tasted the way it looks, like styrofoam. That was before we starting growing our own and discovered the difference in fresh from the garden flavors. If you don’t have a garden, sign up with a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) or visit a year round farmers’ market. We blanche and freeze our cauliflower to enjoy in dishes later. Cauliflower is the con artist of the cruciferous veggies. Behind the bland facade is surprising nutty, tangy flavor. Add some green veggie notes, rich cream, oxidative cheese, and anise flavors and this soup is anything but boring.
What to pair? This is an easy wine to pair. There are lots of flavors, yet none are overwhelming. We prefer white but if you hate white, a lighter red like Pinot Noir or Gamay would also work. The important thing to remember is there is cream and stilton cheese so you want a full bodied wine with balanced acidity. Check out Pairing Wine and Food: A Weighty Topic and Pairing Wine and Food: Mouthwatering Wine for an explanation.
The obvious choice, easy and readily available, is a Chardonnay with oak influence. Among Oregon Chardonnays consider 2013 Stoller Family Estate Reserve Chardonnay ($35) and 2013 Willamette Valley Vineyards Estate Chardonnay($30).
And for a real kicker, pair this soup with Blakeslee Vineyard 2014 Estate Reserve White Pinot Noir ($50). We passed a night tasting Oregon White Pinot with some fellow writers and at the end brought this bottle home to meet our cauliflower soup.
Our group’s tasting note: “A first of its kind from Blakeslee, this white Pinot is very well structured. Barrel fermented in mostly neutral French oak, the wood influence adds texture and pleasantly accompanies the other flavors. Aromas of white pepper, honeysuckle and lilies are followed on the palate by additional flavors of smoked cherry. Lovers of cool-climate, intricately layered, carefully oaked Chardonnay will enjoy this wine.”
For more on this style of Pinot Noir read our recent article in the Oregon Wine Press.
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 medium yukon gold potatoes, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 2½ cups cauliflower florets, 1 inch pieces
- 3 Tbs fennel fronds, chopped (plus more for garnish)
- 2 Tbs sage, chopped
- 3 Tbs. butter
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup whole milk
- ½ cup Stilton cheese (plus extra for garnish)
- ½ up half and half
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2-3 cups cubed bread - like a large day old roll
- 2 Tbs butter
- Salt, pepper, fennel seed to taste
- Melt butter in soup pot.
- Add onion, potatoes, garlic, bell pepper, cauliflower and cook until the onion softens.
- Add chicken stock and milk, fennel fronds, and sage.
- Bring to simmer and simmer covered until cauliflower is soft. 20 minutes
- Puree soup.
- Return to soup pot and add Stilton, half and half, salt and pepper.
- Cook over low heat to melt cheese and blend flavors.
- Melt butter over medium heat and allow to brown but not burn.
- Turn heat very low and add chopped bread.
- Toss in butter and sprinkle with fennel seeds, salt, and pepper.
- Cook over low heat until crunchy, frequently tossing to prevent burning.