2 leeks, white and lightest green parts (about 8 ounces)
1/4 cup butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
6 – 7 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 pound cauliflower (about 1/2 head)
14 ounces white cheddar cheese, grated
For the Crumbs
1/2 head cauliflower
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1. Slice the leeks into thin rings, then rinse well under cold running water. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, then add the leeks and cook until soft and wilted, about 8 minutes.
2. Add the garlic and cook one more minute. Sprinkle over the flour and cook until the flour is thoroughly combined with the leeks.
3. Add the broth, cream and 2 cups of water. Stir until the soup begins to thicken, then add the nutmeg, bay leaves and thyme (I tie the sprigs together with a small piece of twine to make them easier to remove later). Bring the soup to a low bubble, but do not boil.
4. Cut the cauliflower into small pieces, removing any very hard center stem. Drop the pieces into the soup, reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Let the soup simmer for 20 – 25 minutes or until the cauliflower is soft.
5. Purée the soup with an immersion blender or vary carefully in batches in a blender. When the soup is smooth, stir in the grated cheddar by handfuls, melting each handful before the adding the next one. Season well with salt. The salt can be cooled, covered and refrigerated at this point for several hours. Reheat gently; do not boil.
6. Serve sprinkled with the curried crumbs.
For the Crumbs
1. Use a large knife to shave the knobbly top of the cauliflower to produce 1/2 cup of crumbs. Remove any larger pieces of stem. It should look like fine bread crumbs.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat, then add the cauliflower crumbs. Stir constantly until the crumbs are brown and toasted.
3. Sprinkle over the curry powder and a pinch of salt and stir to coat. Toast a few seconds longer until brown and fragrant. Remove the crumbs to paper towel lined plate with a slotted spoon.
4. Sprinkle the crumbs over the soup to serve.