We love garlic in all its forms – I keep roasted garlic on hand throughout the year to add depth and savor to all kinds of dishes and always have a few bulbs of fresh in the onion basket. Other than adding a bit of roasted garlic to sauces and braises to insert that hint of sweet pungency, my favorite way of using garlic is to grate (using my trusty rasp grater) fresh garlic into sauces, soups, salad dressings, breads and, of course, terrific aromatic garlic bread by kneading the grated garlic mash into extra virgin olive oil, a bit of Parmigiano, and a sprinkle of freshly ground pepper. I grate it so often that I have a permanent scrape at the base of my thumb. You can read about my infatuation in a post dated October 2010 – Garlic is Good – and learn more than you probably need to know about it. You don’t have to read it before you make the following soup – a recipe that I’ve rediscovered from my early days in the kitchen when all things French were on the menu.
A number of countries have a garlic soup all of their own – Spain has sopa de ajo, Portugal its AÃ§orda, Italy the wondrous zuppa all’aglio – but my favorite is the Provençal Aïgo Bouïdo and that is the recipe I’m going to share. It is a warming fall or winter filling-enough-to-be-main-course dish (when you add the cheese and bread) and the aroma coming from the kitchen will make you ravenous – extra bread, a lovely frisée salad, and a bottle of chilled light white wine complete what is, to me, the perfect meal. This recipe should make 4 generous servings.
3 medium heads of very fresh garlic
1 medium sweet onion, such as Vidalia, peeled and chopped
2 bay leaves
2 fresh sage leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt to taste
3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper to taste, optional
1 teaspoon chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for serving
1 baguette, sliced on the diagonal, and toasted for serving
Place 2 quarts of water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.
While the water is coming to a boil, using your fingers, push all the dry, loose skin from the garlic heads. Coarsely chop the heads, skin and all.
When the water is boiling, add the chopped garlic along with the onion, bay leaves, cloves, sage leaves, and thyme sprigs. Add salt to taste and return to a low simmer. Simmer for about 25 minutes or until the garlic is mushy.
While the broth is simmering, prepare the thickener (liaison in French culinary terms and since we’re in the territory we might call it as we should).
Place the egg yolks in a small mixing bowl. Using a whisk, beat until very light and quite thick. Whisking constantly, add the oil in a slow steady stream, beating until the mixture comes to a mayonnaise-like thickness. (Since we’re in the classic mode, I’ve suggested doing this by hand, but you could just as easily do it in a food processor). Cover and set aside until ready to use.
When the garlic is mushy, remove the broth from the heat, and strain through a fine mesh sieve, discarding the solids. Taste and, if necessary, season the broth with salt and pepper to taste.
Return the liquid to the saucepan and set aside until ready to serve.
When ready to serve, return the garlic broth to medium heat and bring to a boil.
While the broth is heating, scrape the liaison into a soup tureen or large serving bowl.
Once the broth has come to a boil, remove it from the heat and, whisking the liaison constantly, slowly pour about a cup of the hot broth into the liaison; then pour in the remaining broth. Sprinkle chopped parsley and chives over the top and serve with a health dose of Parmigiano over the top of each serving and plenty of toasted baguette slices to dip into the broth.