The streets north of Rue St. Antoine bustle with life, at least this has been my observation. They are narrow, and on a rainy day shifting to single file or stepping into the street so other people can pass can be vexing. It is tempting to nip into empty little corners and gardens, as we did on our last day in Paris, when the rain matched our moods. Across from Square George Cain, a lovely little park tucked behind Musee Carnavalet, is the Swedish Cafe, part of the Swedish Cultural Center on Rue Payenne.
At mid afternoon, the little cafe was deserted and this captivated me, and fired my imagination. I saw the buggy and imagined a young Swedish mother, the wife of a minor diplomat perhaps, visiting with her child. The daily special, said the menu board, was cauliflower soup and I longed for a cup, and a rest in this little sanctuary. But we had shopping and packing to do, and thus a bus to catch. I shot a hasty photo.
Now six months later, it is not raining or snowing, but instead is one of those December days that is washed in gray-blue light, like a watercolor, and it is cold and I am inside with my own bowl of cauliflower soup, this one made with St. Paulin cheese.
Rustic Cauliflower Soup
1 medium cauliflower, chopped
3 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 cup St. Paulin cheese, in chunks
dash freshly ground pepper
pinch fleur de sel
I made chicken stock yesterday, using the carcass of a rotisserie chicken, some onion skins and peels, some thyme, and one garlic clove.
Using a large sauce pan or smaller stock pot, cook the cauliflower in 1 cup of the chicken stock until tender. Allow it to cool, drain and then reserve the liquid. Run it through a blender to get a slight puree.
In another saucepan, soften the onion in butter. Add the cauliflower puree, then add flour and milk. Allow the mix to boil and thicken. Then, turning the heat down, add the cheese until the cheese melts. Taste before adding salt and pepper.
Cauliflower soup does not need much embellishment to satisfy and provide a sense of comfort. I often add a dash of fresh thyme, or even a tiny pinch of orange rind.
This was fine as it was, with just a few small garlic croutons floating on top.