- It’s difficult to think of the bulbous cruciferous vegetable – the cauliflower – as sexy. But indeed this soup was named after one of the most beautiful (and the last) of Louis XV’s mistresses, Comtesse du Barry. She eventually had her head cut off but her beauty pulled her up from the ranks of an illegitimate nobody into fame and fortune as the King’s courtesan.
The French named this creamy soup after her. Why? Perhaps the milky color of the cauliflower reflected her complexion as the website The Old Foodie points out or for the shape and color of her powdered wig? Perhaps because the silky smooth rather curvaceous combination of cream and cauliflower reflected her – ahem – personality?
All I know is that this soup has a seriously sensuous mouth feel and when a little black truffle jus is added and a touch of white truffle oil – it’s magique.
It is common in France to see the name ‘du Barry’ attached to a dish that has a cream sauce or even a mornay sauce (which is a basic white sauce with egg yolks added for extra richness) as well as dishes with cauliflower. I have also made this soup adding egg yolks at the end to give an even more luxurious finished feel but I don’t always find it’s necessary.
Black truffle jus is very expensive. It can be left out if it’s not easy to find or doesn’t fit the budget. However, white truffle oil is often sold in tiny bottles and will give quite a powerful truffle kick even with just a few drops. I also like porcini mushrooms with cauliflower soup, but if you use the dried mushroom liquid (which is tasty) it will change the color a little bit.
A little trick of the trade and a beautiful look to cauliflower soup is shaving some of the larger florets on a mandoline and floating them on the soup. The white on white is stunning for full portions.
Excuse my shameless sales pitch here but a Vita Prep blender will totally change the way you cook. I use it more than any other kitchen appliance. It’s amazing for soups, purées, sauces, vinaigrettes, juices, smoothies, jams, sorbets, etc. And it can take hot and cold liquids and keep them hot or cold. Here’s the new one, it’s super expensive, but I have an old one an it works just fine! I tote it around with me from farm to farm – very durable. Amazon has a range of Vita Preps some with variable speeds (mine only has two).
- 2 medium white cauliflowers, parted into florets. Core discarded
- 3 shallots, chopped
- 3 medium leeks, chopped (white part only)
- 4 ribs celery, chopped
- 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock or water (you might not use all of this)
- 2 cups cream (you will use all of this!)
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup black truffle jus
- Olive oil for cooking
- Herb sachet: 2 turkish bay leaves, 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- Garnish: white truffle oil, chives, shaved cauliflower florets, freshly ground black pepper
In a large pot sweat shallots, leeks, and celery with a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat until translucent. Add cauliflower florets and enough chicken stock to cover and all the cream and butter. Simmer until cauliflower is soft with the herb sachet (which can be wrapped in cheesecloth), about 10 to 15 minutes.
In a Vita Prep carefully ladle in cauliflower florets and mirepoix with just enough of the cooking liquid to cover. More liquid can always be added, but it is very difficult to take it away! Season each batch with salt. When all is blended adjust thickness to your liking. It should be just a little thicker than olive oil in consistency.
Serve soup in bowls or as soup shots with a a few drops of truffle oil, a crack of fresh ground black pepper, and some chive snipets. If desired the soup can also be garnished with shaved raw cauliflower florets.
Note to Chef: the cooking term "sweat" means to sauté without allowing the vegetables to brown or discolor. When the vegetables literally start to sweat and turn translucent that is when the correct stage has been reached!