Saturday, April 16, 2011
Garlic Soup and Walnut Bread
I used to love garlic as much as the next person, that is to say, not particularly. But it was this dish I can still remember, in an old Italian restaurant on Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn that changed my mind. I was hanging out with my friend Michael in his old neighborhood. We stopped at this restaurant where he had occasionally eaten after school. It was weird because, for me, growing up, I usually did the cooking after school for anything I wanted to eat. But he had grown up in Brooklyn, where he didn't have to go far in his explorations. In comparison, I had to walk 10 minutes to the nearest mini mart in order to get milk or chocolate.
The dish I ordered in that restaurant was called Chicken Garlissimo (back in my omnivore days). I would love to say that I had become a convert to garlic by that point, and that's why I ordered it, but, in truth, it was the name, the "issimo" that really made me order the dish. That, and the challenge of 27 roasted cloves of garlic in the description. It might have been gluttony, that drew me in, but what I took out of the experience, as I bit into every sweet, delicious, caramelized clove was that garlic is fantastic.
It wasn't until about a year later that I tried roasting my own garlic. I kept coming across it in restaurants, and every time I tasted it, I loved it. The weird thing is that, growing up, we very rarely had garlic. My mom actually had one of those long garlic braids, but we never used it. Actually, she probably still has it! Although I was conceptually aware of garlic, I never really considered that we might have used the garlic in the braid to use in food.
A few weeks ago, Kelly of Something Shiny mentioned something about garlic on Twitter. I no longer remember what it was, but I countered saying that I also love garlic, and Rebecca of Grongar blog chimed in that she also loved garlic. In order to see how far their love of garlic went, I mentioned this Garlic Soup on the wonderful 101 Cookbooks blog. I had been hankering to make for over a year, but only brought it up, half kidding, wondering if they would balk at a soup made out of garlic. Somehow, in the idle chatter, we decided to make it and our choice of walnut bread (as mentioned in the recipe) in the weeks that followed and post on the same day.
Now, this is one of the things I love about Twitter. I had met Kelly and Rebecca over Twitter during the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge, and they remain two of my favorite people in my Twitter stream. And this is one of the things I most dislike about Twitter. These two friends live an ocean away, thousands of miles even from each other! Which means, that, as much as I would love to meet and bake with them, it remains a far-fetched dream. But even so, it is an honor to have made their acquaintance and to be able to look at their breads (and cheeses!), even if it is only online.
It's a very simple soup, starting with a cool dozen cloves of garlic, some fresh thyme, a bay leaf, two sage leaves, and a teaspoon of sea salt. I didn't have fresh thyme, so I just added a few sprigs of thyme I dried myself. We usually get a big bunch of fresh at the market, and since we don't go through it fast enough, I just hang it up, let it dry, and use it as we go along.
You let the mixture simmer for 40 minutes, sieve the broth out, remove the sage and bay leaves, and then add the garlic back to the broth.
The strangest thing of the soup is that it has a whole egg, two egg yolks, an obscene amount of oil (a quarter cup), 42 grams of freshly shaved Parmesan, and a dash of freshly ground pepper. You mix this up (pouring the oil in a drizzle) and then add some of the broth back to the emulsion, constantly whisking. Then, you add the whole mixture into the broth to create the soup.
Unfortunately for me, despite having successfully made zabaglione, I either didn't whisk fast enough, or I was too distracted with taking photos, or I let it go for too long. In any case, the soup separated a bit, but it was still freakin' delicious, full of this vegetal garlic flavor without being too harsh.
Oh, but you didn't think I was going to let you read all that and not mention the bread? My choice was a walnut bread from Dan Lepard's The Handmade Loaf that I had also been eying for about a year. It's made with sourdough and fresh yeast. Included in the bread is a delicious walnut paste that yields slightly more than you need in order to have some left over to spread on the bread.
The dough itself was a bit dry, but it came thogether rather quickly, which was lucky for me since I had to rush to work. I let it rise in the refrigerator, and left it to warm up on the stove while baking another loaf in the oven before letting it have its turn in the heat. Even though the recipe is supposed to yield two loaves, I was happy with it as a large single loaf.
Even though the crumb was a little tight, it has streaks of purple from the walnuts, and made an excellent foil for the garlic soup.
The last thing I wanted to mention is that we're moving. Which sucks when you realize you've collected a lifetime of things in five short years, including two of everything in the kitchen. But it promises a new start, and with it, much hope for happier and brighter tomorrows. And the promise of many delicious meals with old and new friends.
Kelly and Rebecca, I hope to meet you both one day in person.
Here's the link to Kelly's post on Something Shiny.
And the link to Rebecca's post on Grongar Blog will be forthcoming.