Roasted Cauliflower and Aged Cheddar Chowder

My 20 year old self used to lug around a 2 inch binder, heavy as a crate of Malaysian mangos and bursting with scrapes of tatter papers.  I took it everywhere. Inside were the mad scribbling that blueprinted my restaurant empire. It would start with the perfect corner café, I would serve soup. I had collected, tested and perfected over 2,000 recipes – but decided that there would be six stand bys and then two new soups daily. There would be two sizes, a window where you could get a hot bowl to go if you were feeling under the weather and a garnish bar with shredded cheese, croutons and chopped herbs to make your bowl perfect to your taste. I would source the best breads from local bakeries. I had sketches of the dishes and the mise en place of the kitchen. I had document how long it would take to thaw 10 pounds of chowder and I had chosen the font for the menus. I knew that I wanted to open it in San Francisco, because it is more often than not soup weather there, and being that it was 2002 I would call it “Soup in the City” – how cute am I? You would go there at least three times a week wouldn’t you? Too bad that angel investor’s were more concerned with twitter and instagram than soup. So sad.

I have since stopped carrying around that binder, but I still have an amazing arsenal of soup recipes and Hungarian bread baker’s biceps. Here is one of my winter favorites. It is comforting and creamy; seared scallops are a fabulous addition, and stuffed mushrooms are a perfect pairing… but promise you won’t serve it without garlic toasts. Must have the garlic toasts. Got it? 

Roasted Cauliflower and Aged Cheddar Chowder
makes 4 servings

1 Head of Cauliflower, Broken into Florets
4 Slices of Bacon, Diced
3 TB Grapeseed Oil, Divided
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
3 Cups Chicken Stock
1 Cup Half & Half
1 ½ Cups Aged White Cheddar, Shredded
1 TS Fresh Thyme Leaves + More for Garnish

Toss the cauliflower florets in 2 tablespoons of oil, spread onto a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and fresh cracked pepper. Roast in a 400° oven until browned, about 25 minutes. In the soup pot - sauté the diced bacon in the remaining tablespoon of oil until crisp, remove and set aside on a paper towel. Don’t worry, you will add it back in at the end. Add the onion and garlic and sauté over low/medium heat until the onions are translucent. Deglaze with the stock, add in the roasted cauliflower and thyme. Cover and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes so that the flavors can combine. Add in the cheese and half & half, allow to simmer for another five minutes or until the cheese has melted, do not allow to boil. Remove from heat, season to taste with salt and fresh cracked pepper. Garnish with bacon and fresh thyme. Serve to someone you love, secret or not.

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