Monday, March 24, 2008

Provençal Garlic Soup

Tired of vampires? Who isn't these days?

Make this lovely Provençal soup, and keep your house safe for a whole year. Delightfully easy too.

Wicked technique for roasting garlic. Why isn't this more well known?


1/4 cup olive oil (approximate. see below.)
4 whole garlic heads (1 per person basically)
4 tbsp flour
4 cups broth (you see where these 4's are going!)
broken pasta (spaghetti or linguini)
fresh thyme/rosemary

olive oil (yo! listen up!)
sea salt (yo! one more time, listen up!)

chopped parsley
dried bread


First, a quick note. There seem to be an absurd number of both pictures and instructions for what is, after all, a peasant recipe.

The CC attributes this largely to our sheer disconnect from cultural context. There is something absurdly ironic about taking digital pictures and giving instructions about what uneducated, and yet from a culinary perspective, absurdly sophisticated people can whip up at a moment's notice.

Have we really progressed if we eat so badly?

Enough philosophy. On with the show.

First, the garlic. A picture is more explanatory than a thousand words. One clean chop per garlic head (four total), and we're done.

Then, we pour olive oil over a baking tray, and lay the garlic heads down upon it. Do not stinge on the olive oil. The garlic will suck it up like a two-bit whore.

Bake at 350F for roughly an hour. You will need to keep checking; it really depends on the size of the garlic heads.

Note how the tops of the heads just slide off. Bitchin'!!!

Pop the rest out with a paring knife. They will be super soft, and a bit sticky.

There may be a few burnt ones at the edges if you are not careful. It's like war. You can't rescue everybody. Learn to let go.

Master Maillard shows up twice in this recipe. The roasted garlic is the first part.

Add the flour. Crush completely with a ricer. Do not heat the mixture until you have completely finished this step, or else you will end up with a thin floury soup rather than rich complex soup.

If you need, add more oil to form the paste. Do NOT add water. You can always skim it off later but it is crucial that the flour fry not boil. You may recognize this as nothing more than Master Maillard in action one more time.

Heat the vessel gently, The oil liberated from the roasted garlic is going to fry the flour. Wait till the flour changes color. It will be fairly obvious.

Add the HEATED broth very very slowly. If you don't have broth, use water. Don't worry; this is a peasant soup.

The key part of the "heated" is that you want to suspend the flour in the water. If you screw it up, which you very well may, just use an immersion blender, to blend it while it is still cold (so you can skim it later.)

If you don't have an immersion blender, just do what the mammas do. Crush the flour with a wooden spoon against the sides of the pot.

Let these two instructions stand as proof that the CC is not a "purist". The CC is a "pragmatist". There are key steps that may not be skipped, and then there's the rest.

Add the rosemary (or thyme.) The CC just uses cooking twine so he can easily fish it out.

Lots of oil and assorted impurities will come to the surface. Skim, baby, skim.

Let it simmer gently for 20 mins.

You may store the soup at this point if you want to make it in advance. Reheat it when you need to. You may need to add some extra water to control the texture (The CC needed it even when he didn't store it.)

Add the broken noodles, and let it simmer till the noodles are done (depends on the brand.)

Dice the parsley fine, and serve over crusty bread.

On a side note, this soup stores well. Just add fresh parsley after you reheat it.

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