Silky-smooth and simple to make, this creamy cauliflower soup is rich but not excessive, hearty but not heavy, and garnished with crispy bits of bacon and minced chive to perk things up.
Leeks are, in my opinion, a deeply underappreciated vegetable. Sweeter and more delicate than onion or even shallots, they add so much flavor and depth to this simple cauliflower soup.
Unlike onions, leeks do require some special prep. Because they’re grown in sandy soil, and much of that soil ends up inside the leek’s thin layers, it’s important to wash them thoroughly to avoid a gritty, sandy soup. More on that in the recipe card...
Ingredients You’ll Need:
Note: You don’t necessarily need to use homemade chicken stock when making this soup (or any soup for that matter) but it is important to use a good-quality stock. It is afterall the entire base for your soup. There are lots options for high-quality stocks and bone broths at the supermarket these days. The freezer section is where you’ll find the best ones. The brand Bonafide is very good and widely available. Some specialty markets and butchers make and sell their own stocks, those are good options too. Avoid boxed or canned stocks if possible.
Recipe Step by Step:
Step 1. Prep
Wash the leeks well in a bowl of water. Drain, rinse and repeat as many times as necessary to remove every last bit of sandy grit. Whether you’re using slab bacon or thick-cut slices, chop the bacon into 1/4-inch thick “lardons”. Bacon lardons are 1/4″ thick by 1″ long strips of bacon cut from a slab of bacon. Unlike regular strip bacon, lardons hold their shape during cooking resulting in a heartier bite of cured pork thats crispy on the outside and meaty on the inside.
Step 2. Sauté
Render the bacon in a large pot over medium heat until crisp and browned. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a small plate or tray for later use. Sauté the leeks and onion in the bacon fat until soft and translucent.
Step 3. Simmer
Next add the cauliflower, followed by the chicken stock and thyme or rosemary. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered until the cauliflower is tender – about 20-30 minutes. Add the cream.
Step 3. Blend and Serve
Blend the soup until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed. Divide between bowls and top with the crispy bacon lardons, minced chives and freshly cracked black pepper.
How to Purée Soup – With or Without an Immersion Blender:
- By far the easiest way to purée a soup is with an immersion blender. Place the blade end of the immersion blender into the bottom of your soup pot and puree until smooth. To avoid splatters, be sure the blade is completely submerged while blending. My immersion blender or “stick blender” is one of my holy grail kitchen appliances. It’s perfect for quickly blending together soups, sauces, salad dressing, aioli.. etc. It’s compact and easy to clean, if you don’t have one already I highly recommend this one by Kitchenaid.
- If you don’t have an immersion blender you can use a regular countertop blender but you need do so carefully and in small batches. Before getting started allow the soup to cool off on the stove, uncovered for 5-10 minutes. In batches, transfer the soup to you blender filling it no more than halfway, then place the lid on loosely leaving it slightly ajar so steam can escape then blend on the lowest/slowest setting until smooth and creamy. Repeat as needed until all of the soup is puréed.
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Creamy Cauliflower and Leek Soup with Bacon and Chive
- 2 large leeks white and light green part only
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 ounces slab bacon cut into 1/4-inch lardons or 6 slices of thick-cut bacon sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
- 1/2 large yellow onion
- 1 small head cauliflower (about 2 pounds) cored and roughly chopped
- 4 cloves garlic grated
- 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1/2 cup heavy cream optional
- 1/4 cup minced chives or scallions
- salt and pepper
- Halve the leeks lengthwise, discard the woody root end, then slice each half into thin slivers. Transfer the leeks to a bowl of cold water and rinse well. Drain and set aside.
- Place a large dutch oven or similar heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, followed by the bacon. Slowly render the bacon, stirring occasionally until crisp and browned, about 10-12 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon from the pan but leaving the fat. Transfer the crispy bacon to a paper towel-lined plate.
- Add the sliced leeks and onion into the pot with the bacon fat, cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Next, add the chopped cauliflower, garlic, a generous pinch of salt and a few turns of freshly cracked black pepper. Cook and stir for 5 minutes or until the garlic is fragrant and softened.
- Next, pour in the chicken stock and fresh thyme. Bring the soup to a simmer then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes just until the cauliflower is tender and falling apart. Turn off the heat, pluck out and discard the thyme stems then pour in the heavy cream.
- To puree the soup, place the blade end of an immersion blender into the bottom of the pot and blend until smooth. Alternatively, transfer the soup to a blender, filling it no more than halfway, place the lid on loosely leaving it slightly ajar so steam can escape then blend on the lowest/slowest setting until smooth and creamy. Repeat as needed until all of the soup is puréed. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.
- To serve, divide the soup between bowls, top with the bacon lardons, minced chives (or scallions) a few turns of freshly cracked black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve hot!
- Bacon: Slab bacon is nice because makes really nice “lardons” that hold their shape during cooking. Thick cut pre-sliced bacon can also be used for this recipe.
- Leeks: It’s very common for leeks to hold onto sand and grit from the soil they’re grown in. To wash them thoroughly, first thinly slice them then soak them in a large bowl of cold water. Give them a gentle stir or shake to remove any soil or grit between the layers then allow them to sit for a few minutes, during that time impurities will fall to the bottom of the bowl. Use your hands or a slotted spoon to scoop the leeks out of the bowl and into a colander, give them a final rinse and they’re good to go.
- Chicken Stock: Vegetable stock, turkey stock or water can be substituted instead of chicken stock.
- Heavy Cream: Adding heavy cream is optional or can be substituted with whole milk for a lighter soup.
- Leftover soup will stay fresh in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Reheat over low heat in a saucepan or in the microwave.
- Freezing Instructions: Cool the soup completely then transfer to an airtight, freezer-safe storage container. Store in the freezer for up to 3 months. To reheat, defrost the soup overnight in refrigerator then warm in the microwave or in a saucepan over low heat until hot – stir well.