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French Cauliflower Soup with Pink Shrimp
(Creme de Chou-Fleur Iseult à la Bretagne)
Here is a soup named after a character in the tragic legend of Tristram and Iseult (or Tristran and Isolde, according to Wagner's opera). This Iseult is not the Irish one promised to King Mark, the one who fatally drinks the love potion with Tristan. This Iseult is Brittany's princess and Tristan's wife--"Iseult of the White Hands"--who, abandoned by him and learning of his death, still stands on Brittany's shore, gazing north "Alone, with her white face and her gray eyes." This elegant soup has the tang of the sea, the robustness of Breton earth, and is creamy white with just a hint of color--like poor Iseult's wind-lashed grieving face. Serve hot as a first course to 4 people.
Break the cauliflower into equally sized florets, blanch them in salted, boiling water for 5 minutes, then drain.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter, scrape in the onion, and cook on low for 5-10 minutes, so that the onion is soft but not colored. Add the blanched cauliflower and toss to coat. Pour in the stock, season with nutmeg, salt and papper, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and gently simmer for about 15 minutes, when the cauliflower is cooked through.
After removing the best 12 shrimp for the garnish, put the rest of the shrimp into a blender and chop. Gradually add the cauliflower and stock, so that the shrimp is completely pureed into the soup--then return the soup to the pan.
When ready to serve, reheat and stir in the cream. Taste for seasoning. Ladle into bowls, and arrange the shrimp silhouettes into a pattern in the middle of each. Sprinkle with chives and serve immediately, thinking of Iseult and the "white birds flying, Flying, and always flying, and still flying, And the white sunlight flashing on the sea."