The Simple Joys of Complex TasteSometimes I want a meal that is 5-star quality, as if I were dining in a really fine restaurant. Sometimes it is nothing more than a simple soup. But most of times, I realized in order to achieve that standard, I must go the extra distance in developing depth of flavor, one that on the first and last bite, everyone at the dinning table will crave for more. It is a process of turning simple ingredients into a complex taste.
This is such a soup. Starting with a chicken and ham base, adding a layer of roasted leeks, sweet peppers and celery, the broccoli and cauliflower vegetables ride high on savor even coddled within the flavorful Béchamel or actually, a modified Mornay. My thought when preparing and writing down the ingredients as I assembled this, as I often do, was to make a bisque whereby the consistency would yield velvet smooth on the palate. But, just before the last step, I decided to leave the vegetables with somewhat a bite, with a coarse chop-like feel.
Broccoli Cauliflower Soup
with Roasted Leeks and Sweet Pepper
serves 4 to 6
1/2 cup finely diced smoked ham
2 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 large bay leaf
3 cups broccoli florets
3 cups cauliflower florets
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 thinly sliced leek, white part only
1 large sweet banana or mild pepper
1 celery stalk, sliced thin
3 tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves, diced
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups milk
3/4 cup heavy creamy
1/4 cup medium dry sherry
1 tablespoon 'Better than Chicken' bouillon or granules
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup Emmental, Fontina or Extra Sharp cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a medium stock pot, add ham, chicken broth and bay leaf. Allow broth to simmer on low for about 20 minutes. Remove bay leaf and using a hand-held emulsifier (or place in blender), blend until ham is coarsely chopped. Add the broccoli and cauliflower, cover with lid and allow to simmer on low for about 10 minutes or until cauliflower is tender yet still firm. Reduce heat to lowest setting.
Meanwhile, place leek, pepper and celery in a bowl and toss with olive oil. Place on a large baking pan (I used non-stick foil) evenly spread out the leek mixture and roast for about 15 minutes. Check after the first 10 minutes and redistribute if needed. Roast until leeks are lightly brown on the edges. Remove and add to the broccoli cauliflower pot. Use a potato masher to break down the florets. Or, if a bisque is desired, blend with emulsifier until smooth.
In a large saucepan or saucier, melt butter over medium heat, add garlic and when fragrant, stir in flour. Cook to make a light roux. Slowly whisk in milk, adding half cup at at time until thicken. Whisk in cream, sherry, bouillon, pepper and salt. Stir until thicken, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cheese to blend.
Fold cheese sauce into the large stockpot and covered, increase heat to medium low. Cook about 5 minutes but do not let soup come to a boil.
Serve immediately with warm toasted bread and fold in a few strips of extra cheese for contrast as I did.