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Garlic Soup

March 8, 2011
Put away the Altoids. Garlic soup is your friend.

Mellowed by a long simmer and a smattering of a fresh herbs, garlic soup is satisfying and flavorful without screaming in your ear about it. Best of all, this version, from inestimable food writer Richard Olney, is creamy without a hint of cream, thick without flour or starches. A true comfort food on cruel March days when the promise of Spring is veiled by snow.

(Speaking of cruel: Peeps in the U.S., daylight savings time begins this weekend. You know what that means: Sunday is only 23 hours long. They should’ve picked Monday to begin daylight savings time. No one would decry a shortened Monday.)

This is garlic from SoupAddict’s 2010 crop. Garlic really shouldn’t last this long, but thanks to an extended drying period last summer (remember last summer? It was hot – and dry) and a cool, dry storage arrangement over the winter, they’re hanging in there.

SoupAddict loves that she doesn’t have to buy grocery store garlic for 8 months out of the year, and is tres excited that her 2011 crop is already up and about and waving their little green leaves.

Simple seasonings produce clean flavors. Not that garlic needs help in the flavoring department, but fresh thyme and sage, plus a bay leaf balance out the super savory leanings of the garlic.
From the moment I tried fresh Parmesan cheese — and it was not until I was an adult, alas — the Green Can was immediately banished from my home forever. If you can find Parmesano Reggiano, all the better. It’s a very aged cheese and will keep well-wrapped in the fridge much longer than young cheeses, like cheddar. Expensive, yes. But it keeps.

Which is more than SoupAddict can say about herself, having found both a new wrinkle and a zit while squinting sleepily in the mirror this morning. How is that possible? Wrinkles and acne? Curses!

The egg thickening agent. It works really, really well, and SoupAddict always loves the challenge of adding eggs to a hot liquid (whether it’s soup or pastry cream) without cooking the eggs. Stay out of her way—she becomes a whiskin’ fool.

“Hey! Don’t call me “whiskin’.”

Crusty bread in the bottom of the bowl is a must. It’s like pre-dipping your bread in the soup. Oui oui!

Have I mentioned that I’m trying to teach myself French? I’ve only just started but am completely fascinated by the numbering system. It’s like they got to “60” and then ran out of steam in coming up with new number names. Seventy = Sixty ten,  Eighty = Four twenty and Ninety = Four twenty ten. I love it.

The first time I had garlic soup, I was completely surprised at how the bite and heat of the garlic transforms into a smooth but strongly savory flavor. Delightful.

And SoupAddict doesn’t use the word “delightful” very often, so, you know it must be true.

Garlic Soup

adapted from a recipe by Richard Olney via

2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
3-4 cups water
1 bay leaf
2 sage leaves
1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves removed, stems discarded
a dozen medium cloves of garlic, smashed peeled, and chopped
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

Binding pommade:
1 whole egg
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

day-old crusty bread & more olive oil to drizzle

Bring the stock and 3 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan and add the bay leaf, sage, thyme, garlic, and salt. Heat to a gentle boil and simmer for 40 minutes, covered. If the liquid reduces too far, add more water, up to 1 cup. Remove the bay leave from the soup.

For an extra creamy result, use an immersion blender to smooth out any chunky bits. Taste and add more salt if needed.

With a fork, whisk the egg, egg yolks, cheese, and pepper together in a bowl until creamy. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, beating all the time, then add (slowly! slowly!), continuing to whisk, a large ladleful of the broth.

Stir the contents of the bowl into the garlic broth and whisk it continuously over low-medium heat until it thickens to about the consistency of heavy cream or a loose bechamel. It might seem like it will never thicken, but keep going – it does!

Place a handful of torn bread chunks into the bottom of each bowl and pour the soup over the bread. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

Makes about 4 cups of soup.

  1. March 8, 2011 5:51 pm

    I was raised with garlic on everything! But never had garlic soup!
    Sitting in my freezing office imagining how good a warm soup would taste right now!
    I bet it smelled amazing…

    • SoupAddict permalink
      March 8, 2011 8:21 pm

      You were raised right! It does smell wonderful … but not overpowering, as you think a dozen cloves of garlic would. Amazing, really.

  2. March 9, 2011 3:40 am

    I attempted to make this recipe when I saw it on 101 Cookbooks last year and it was an epic failure. And I mean EPIC. The kind of failure that makes you wonder if you should ever set foot in a kitchen again. Okay, so I just fouled up the eggs, but it was a huge disappointment. Seeing how beautiful your soup turned out, I think I make give it another go sometime soon. It looks just lovely, and I’ll bet it smells even better!

    • SoupAddict permalink
      March 9, 2011 9:00 am

      I’m not kidding about the eggs being a challenge. Add the hot liquid slowly, and whisk whisk whisk. Don’t stop for even a second. ๐Ÿ™‚

      The first time I made the recipe, I made it per 101’s instructions (i.e., uncovered), and, a 40 minute simmer with really nothing in the soup of any substance caused the liquid to reduce by half. I was left with a bare 2 cups of soup. I don’t know whether that was the original recipe, or 101’s alteration, or differences in stoves, but, yikes. Cover the pot.

  3. March 9, 2011 11:56 am

    Mmmmm . . . I have a garlic soup in my archives that I love, but I’m fascinated by the idea of the egg as a thickening agent in a soup. Never tried that before. The results look delectable.

  4. March 9, 2011 1:42 pm

    As much as I love garlic, I have always been a bit afraid of garlic soup… but you make it sound so lovely! I will have to try.

    • SoupAddict permalink
      March 9, 2011 10:45 pm

      It does sound quite suspicious, but, simmering the garlic makes it quite mild – very savory but doesn’t hang around afterwards. You can think of it like this: Garlic is to garlic soup like onions are to French onion soup.

  5. March 9, 2011 6:19 pm

    Try this I must! I love 101 cookbooks and love garlic and love you for bringing garlic soup to my attention…

    • SoupAddict permalink
      March 9, 2011 10:49 pm

      Awww, Rocky. You are so sweet. ๐Ÿ™‚ I love 101 cookbooks, too. She gave me the courage to try tempeh some years ago, and completely changed the way I think about vegetarianism (for the better).

  6. March 17, 2011 9:04 am

    This is a Soup I have made in the past. I absolutely love garlic in everything and struggle when I have to follow a recipe that does not demand garlic. Much as the comment “sanyaliving” made I too grew up with lots of garlic and grow my own every year. Have you every tried a simple Portuguese called Sopa de coentros? I believe you may like it as it has a strong garlic taste blended with much powerful yet aromatic cilantro.

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