We’re Cooking: Creamy Cauliflower, Celeriac and Celery Soup with Pancetta

Sometimes just playing in the kitchen is fun.  I had an idea to make a celery based soup the other night with fresh celery stalks and celeriac (or celery root).  While I was at the store gathering ingredients I noticed beautiful, enormous heads of cauliflower was on sale for a dollar each….I had to buy, resulting in the whole head going into this soup with onions, garlic, and lots of celery.  Finished with just a bit sherry and cream and topped with crispy bits of pancetta, this was a delicious delight.
Optional addition, baby enoki or clamshell mushrooms cooked in a bit of white wine, sherry and thyme in the fat from the pancetta.


Creamy Cauliflower, Celeriac and Celery Soup with Pancetta
1 1/2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 head cauliflower, cut into bit size pieces
1 large celeriac, outer layer removed, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 bunch celery, ends trimmed, cleaned and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 large onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 bay leaves
1 large stem rosemary
5 stems thyme
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon each salt and pepper
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1-2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar (to your taste)
2 tablespoons Sherry
4 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 cup fat-free half and half or heavy cream
3 oz chopped pancetta
2 oz enoki or clamshell mushrooms (optional) with 1 tablespoon Sherry, 1/4 cup white wine, 1 teaspoon fresh thyme and a pinch of salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven to medium heat.  Add the onion and celery and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring to coat the veggies in the oil.  Add the celeriac and cauliflower, stir to coat and season with salt and pepper.  Cook for another 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes with the wine.  Continue to cook for another 5 minutes.  Add the bay leaves.  Tie the rosemary and thyme in a bundle with kitchen twine, add to the pot with the lemon juice and zest.  Stir to incorporate everything together.  Add the stock and bring to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes to an hour.  Meanwhile, cook the pancetta in a small saute pan over medium high heat until crispy.  (I don’t add oil to the pan, the pancetta is fatty enough.  If you feel you need a bit of oil to get the cooking started add just a touch.) Scoop the crispy pancetta onto a paper towel lined plate and top with another towel to soak up any fat.  Set aside.
If adding the mushroom garnish, drain a bit of the fat from the pancetta pan and add the mushrooms to the pan over medium heat.  Let cook for about a minute then add the wine, Sherry, thyme and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Cook for about 5 minutes, then scoop out of the pan into a bowl and set aside.
After the soup has simmered, remove the herb bundle and bay leaves.  Turn the heat off an let cool for a few minutes.  With an immersion blender or food processor slowly blend the soup to a silky, creamy consistency.  Bring back up to a simmer and add the Sherry and the cream, whisking both in slowly.  Whisk in  the parsley.  Add 1 tablespoon of Sherry vinegar and taste.  If you like the taste, serve; if you need a bit more acidity, add the additional tablespoon.  Adjust any final seasonings.  Serve in big soup bowls topped with the pancetta and mushrooms with crusty bread for dipping.

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