Madame duBarry is much more famous now for cheesy cauliflower than for her celebrity lovemaking, arts patronage, or political influence, all of which made her famous during her day. A day cut short at age 50 by a beheading in the hot aftermath of La Revolution, the same year as Marie Antoinette, who was 12 years her junior.
The daughter of a monk and a dressmaker, the 26 year-old duBarry was brought to the court of Louis XV by the aristocratic gambler Jean du Barry, who eventually married her to his brother for convenience’ sake. King Louis had just lost his last mistress, Madame de Pompadour, to cancer, and required a replacement. Installed in his bedchambers, DuBarry cared for Louis until he died of smallpox, then went through the typical ex-monarch’s-girlfriend rigamarole: nunnery, exile, then final return to a sumptuous chateau the king had gifted her in the first place, along with a new lover.
Meanwhile, the duBarry name has been affixed to any food that combines cauliflower, white sauce or cream, egg yolks and cheese. Crème or Potage duBarry, for instance, is a luscious cream soup made of these. The classic duBarry garnish consists of cooked cauliflower sprigs, reshaped into miniature cauliflowers and browned with a coating of Mornay sauce and grated cheese.
She may have served cauliflower at dinner parties, since it had found favor in French court a generation earlier with Louis XIV who liked it cooked in stock, seasoned with nutmeg, and served with fresh butter. The French now eat an average of about 3-1/2 kilos of the vegetable per year. It is generally believed to have been introduced to Europe by the Arabs after the fall of the Roman Empire.
There has been somewhat of a move recently to eat cauliflower raw. Brooklyn’s Al di La Trattoria served a winter salad this past season that mixed thin slices with other winter veg, and dressed them with a cheesy dressing. And at the Tomato Estate, we love to chop it along with broccoli and red onion and marinate it in oil and red vinegar with seasalt.
Here at the Tomato Estate we have been craving cream of cauliflower but are still having our vegan moment. (See the book “Skinny Bitch” for backup here.) So we are skipping the cream, eggs, and cheese. That leaves us with Crème duBarry Lite, or perhaps in this case Crème duBarry aux Lait d'Amande, as we will employ almond milk instead of cow’s.
In ayurveda, the Indian system of medicine, almond is considered food for the brain and nervous system. Perhaps if Madame had made her cauliflower soup with almonds instead of dairy, she would have been sharp enough to reconsider leaving the safety of exile and, in epically bad timing, returning to Paris for a little visit, where she was denounced by her manservant and required to leave her head.
The photo above shows a pretty thick version of the soup, if you like it thinner simply add more almond milk. It's also quite subtle, like mommy food...if too subtle for you, sautee curry spice briefly in a tablespoon of olive oil and add. Of course, its flavor also benefits from shredded gruyère cheese if you are not enjoying a vegan diet.
Almond Cream of Cauliflower Soup (Vegan)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 pound cauliflower, washed and rough chopped
1 leek, cleaned and chopped with an inch of green left on
sea salt to taste
white pepper to taste
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups unsweetened almond milk
freshly ground nutmeg OR finely chopped tarragon
Warm the olive oil over medium heat in a saucepan until it ripples and add the leek, cooking about 5 minutes to soften. Add the cauliflower with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Cover with vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Simmer at low until vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes.
Add almond milk and bring to a simmer, remove from heat. Don't boil. Puree and return to pot. Add nutmeg or chopped tarragon. Adjust seasonings.