Saturday, January 24, 2015

Cauliflower - who knew?

Yesterday, I came across an article with recipes about strange uses of cauliflower. The idea is to substitute cauliflower for carbs like breads, potatoes, and even tortillas. There have been a few recent studies linking our over-consumption of carbs to high cancer rates, and with the gluten-free scam going on, the rush to fill the carb void is great. I'm not totally sold on the link between carbs and cancer, although you could convince me that it's the corn we consume, mostly in the form of high fructose corn syrup. (Most people don't realize that the average American diet is 90% corn.)  Anyway, this whole anti-carb fad has led people to find alternatives to carbs, and as a result, we get things like cauliflower pizza crust and cauliflower tortilla chips.

Early yesterday afternoon I clicked on the link in the article for cauliflower chowder. I'm a big soup person and make killer soups. (No, really, ask Chris.) I couldn't get it out of my mind for the rest of the day and my commute home consisted of planning how I would make it last night. I've never really made any kind of chowder, though I do make a potato soup that is similar to the cauliflower concoction. Normally I don't use recipes or pre-packaged broth - I usually boil onions, peppers, and carrots in water and add Worcestershire to make my broth before adding the rest of my ingredients, and sometimes I'll have leftover chicken bones to use. But when Chris was sick at the time of his opera auditions, I purchased some canned chicken broth in a desperate attempt to fix his voice before his appointment, and I still had a can left. I feel like I cheated for using it, but it was easier than buying a chicken and boiling the bones! The recipe itself was a guide for me on how to use cauliflower instead of potatoes, and I really only followed the idea of the chowder and modified everything else.

I got off the train and headed straight to the supermarket. They had ONE head of cauliflower in the entire produce section, and it was an organic one that someone had put in the broccoli section. I'm not kidding - I was diligent in my attempts to find more. That one head was just sitting there waiting for me to take it. The original recipe didn't call for broccoli; adding it was my idea. So was the jalapeno. There were no shopping baskets to be found, and I ended up struggling to carry a head of cauliflower, a bag of broccoli crowns, two jalapenos, garlic, two packages of bacon (only one for the soup - but it was on sale for three bucks off, so I grabbed a second one), a giant bag of shredded cheddar, a half gallon of milk, and a bag of pistachios that had nothing to do with the soup but was on special. The rest of the ingredients - flour, chicken broth, black pepper, Frank's hot sauce, salt, and Aleppo pepper I had at home.

I was starving, and I needed the bacon grease in the early stages of cooking, so I cut open the package and had that bacon frying before I even had the cutting board out for the veggies. I ended up frying nine pieces of bacon and eating three of them. (Or maybe it was more. That's what happens when you eat your lunch at 11:30am.) At the same time, I was steaming the cauliflower, because I had to get that soft enough to mash it up. I probably steamed it for twenty minutes while I chopped up four large cloves of garlic, a small onion, and the jalapeno pepper. I chopped these very finely - it's important in getting the flavor right so a big piece doesn't overwhelm any bite you take. The smaller you can get the pieces, the better. In the same stage, I combined 2 tablespoons of flour with a fourth of a cup of chicken broth - this I got from the recipe because I wouldn't have known how much flour to use for thickening. You have to whisk it in a bowl.

To sum up, at the end of stage one, I had a plateful of bacon (six or seven pieces - I really did go crazy with eating it as I cooked it), a bowl of flour/chicken broth, finely chopped garlic, onion, and jalapeno, and a head of super soft caulflower. It was time for stage two.

I added the garlic, onion, and jalapeno to the skillet full of bacon grease and let that cook while I mashed up cauliflower until it looked like mashed potatoes. At the same time, I steamed two small broccoli crowns, but would later discover that one was enough. When the veggies were sufficiently sauteed, I poured the entire contents of the skillet into a soup pot, including the bacon grease, then added the mashed cauliflower, two cups of milk, two cups of chicken broth (what was left of the can), the flour/chicken broth mixture, a generous amount of black pepper, probably a tablespoon of salt, a tablespoon of Aleppo pepper, and I can't even guess how much Frank's - only tasting can get that right. I cooked that on high not quite to the boiling point before adding two plus cups of shredded cheddar and turning the heat to low so it could simmer. By then, the broccoli was soft enough, so in what can only be described as half-mashing, I broke up the broccoli into small pieces and added it to the soup. Then I broke up the bacon and added most of it, saving a few pinches to put on top of the soup for a garnish. I let it all simmer for about five minutes before serving.

Neither Chris nor I could understand just how good the chowder was going to be. It kind of blew our minds. I guess the serving size is six because I had two bowls, he had three, and I made him save the last one so I could have it for lunch today. It was filling, too, but I had a second bowl anyway because it was so good. My only regret is that I didn't double it so we'd have some left for the whole weekend.


  1. Sounds AMAZING! I love cauliflower chowder in my crock pot. Never thought about adding broccoli! California blend chowder!

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