In a medium-sized stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, cook the chopped bacon slowly until slightly brown, or about 5 minutes. Remove cooked bacon to a plate lined with a paper towel to drain, leaving the bacon grease in the pot.
Melt butter with the bacon grease in the stock pot/Dutch oven.
Add the chopped carrots, celery, onion and thyme. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring often. Add the flour and stir until thoroughly mixed. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring often.
Add Cooper Cheese to the flour mixture and stir until melted.
Add chicken stock, then add cauliflower. Increase heat to medium-high for a quick simmer to cook the cauliflower.
Once the cauliflower is cooked through, add whole milk and stir until mixed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
If desired, stir in some of the chopped bacon. Otherwise, reserve bacon for garnish.
Remove chowder from heat and serve nice and hot. Garnish each bowl of Cauliflower Chowder with the remaining smoked bacon crumbles.
And if you want to really take this dish over the top, cap each serving off with a couple Cooper Cheese Garlic Croutons (see recipe below). And maybe even a little more Cooper Cheese.
Cooper Cheese Garlic Croutons
8 servings (2 croutons each)
1 short French baguette, preferably day old
1/2 cup butter
2 teaspoons minced garlic (or about 3-4 medium cloves)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
4-8 slices Cooper Sharp White cheese
Preheat oven to 375°F.
If using a fresh French baguette, cut into 16 slices about half an inch thick. Let sit out on a baking sheet 1 day. Otherwise, use a day-old French baguette cut into 16 slices.
Melt the butter.
In a large zippered plastic bag, combine the melted butter, garlic and thyme. Shake and rotate the bag to evenly distribute the butter and seasoning over the bread slices.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay the baguette slices onto the sheet.
Bake 10-15 minutes until crispy and golden brown. Flip each slice and top with either 1 full slice or 1/2 slice of Cooper Cheese (depending on your cheese preference and size of the bread slices). If needed, hand tear the slices and layer cheese to cover the top of the bread slice accordingly.
Bake 5-10 min longer until Cooper Cheese is melted.