A soup by any other name

When winter comes to the big city in a big way -- I mean a -26°C with the wind chill kind of big way -- sometimes the best coping method is to arm yourself with two new shiny cookbooks -- Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table and Melissa Clark's In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite, courtesy of the public library system -- and to listen to Kurt Elling. It's particularly helpful to whip up a batch of granola that fills your apartment with the lingering scents of ground ginger, cinnamon and brown sugar, and to sip on a cup of tea called The Skinny that came highly recommended by a co-worker, the faint smell of Indian cuisine arising from the steam.

And -- if you're particularly daring and dreamy -- the best way to arm yourself against the throes of the cold is to wait and wonder as a pot of garlic broth simmers on your stove. Truly, it will calm your worries and heal your aching body.

Remember a while back when I confessed to not being a soup person? That my experiments in the land of liquid had, generally speaking, soured my hopes of ever metamorphosing into a soup-makin' connoisseur? Dear readers, I have made several pots of soup this winter, and by and large I have liked them all. I've beat the system! Or something like that.

And then (oh, the story turns!), there was a soup named Garlic, and she was smooth, rich, indulgent, and...dissatisfying.

Dissatisfying, at least, to me.

It is the perfect restorative, regenerative soup, yes. A soup using no less than a dozen cloves of garlic is bound to wield some power. But really, despite its simplicity and lovely French techniques, it's safe to say this elegant soup is not for me. I feel okay admitting to this. It's a nice soup. It's dignified. It's the perfect companion for crusty bread or a poached egg, or both if you so please, and if I were served it anywhere but in my own house it would please me well enough. But I have realized through this season of soup-making that my soup preferences lie at either end of the spectrum -- very robust or very brothy, with no middle ground. But nevertheless, you should know this recipe, if only to tell people you are making garlic soup.

When I told people of my plans to make garlic soup, the reactions varied. "Garlic..soup?" one might ask, as if the two were very separate things that should never be mixed in equal parts (unlike French Onion Soup, which no one except for perhaps my sister second guesses) while another might respond with, "Oh, I bet that's delicious!" And still another would come around very inquisitive indeed, without an opinion either way -- just wonderment that such a thing could exist. "Hmm, garlic soup!" Like a child, I am often amused by small things.

For this recipe, I used an adaptation of Richard Olney's recipe. Julia Child also has a recipe for garlic soup which appears in Mastering the Art of French Cooking I, but the way she incorporates egg and parmesan is very different from Olney's. I think both are equally good, but it depends on what you are after. Olney's yields a creamy, rich soup, while Child's is quite brothy and uses the cheese as a garnish. If you intend on re-heating, I'd recommend Child's version, as Olney's is one soup that does not stand up to re-heating; the olive oil separates from the soup, and you end up with a soup slightly greasy in texture and aesthetically unappealing.

Now tell me a story where you made a soup that causes memories to shift and stir.


Samantha Angela said...

I made cauliflower soup last night. It was good, but didn't blow me away. My favourite is still potato leek from my own kitchen (or pasta e fagiole from my nonna's).

How is "Around My French Table"? Matt and I bought it for his mom for Christmas since she was wanting a French cookbook and I heard it was awesome.

S. said...

So far so good. That book has received rave reviews and I'm quite impressed by what I've scanned so far. It's also a gorgeous book. But I'm really, really blown away by Melissa Clark's -- she introduces some very interesting methods and ideas.

Samantha Angela said...

I like a cookbook that describes the hows and whys and sometimes a little history behind the dish.

Andrea Paterson said...

One of my favourite winter meals is a good hearty stew. I'm not sure if stew qualifies as soup, but really I like soups that are on the stew end of the spectrum the best. I don't like smooth soups. Maybe it's weird, but I like chunky soups with lots of texture where I can see every ingredient. Maybe I feel that something untoward is lurking in a pureed soup. In any event, last winter I tried a number of beef stew recipes trying to find something that tasted like home. Eventually I found it--some red wine or port is key to a good beef stew--and enjoyed bowl after bowl of homemade comfort.

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