We’ve all been ill over the holidays, taken down by a mean cold. Once the festivities were over, all any of us really wanted was a bowl of healing soup. Since I didn’t have chicken, I made this garlic soup instead.
This soup, for all of its simplicity, is a labor of love, and it will test your cooking skills in every way possible. I’ve tried to explain the steps as best I can, because the end result is worth it. Also, Anthony Bourdain’s comment that “if you can’t be bothered working with fresh garlic, you don’t deserve to eat it” rings true here. There is no substitute for fresh garlic in this recipe, period.
Here is the ratio of ingredients – for every half litre of water (approx. 2 cups), you will need 1 TBL of butter and half of a medium head of fresh garlic.
Peel and press or finely chop the garlic. You will need to make a paste of the garlic, which isn’t nearly as difficult as it sounds. Flatten the pile of chopped/pressed garlic, sprinkle it generously with salt (“generously” meaning a good teaspoon or two), and grab your chef knife. With the sharp end pointed only slightly down and your fingers pressed against the flat side of the knife, start at the right side of the pile and push down and pull across the garlic pile with your knife towards the left. Using short strokes, repeat this process for a minute or two. The salt helps grind the garlic down under the pressure of the knife, so you should end up with a pile of liquid garlic. Any lumps will immediately be visible in your soup.
Now that you have your paste, take your butter and melt it in your soup pot over low heat. You will need to go very low and slow with the butter and garlic, so keep it as low as your stove will let you. Once the butter has melted, dump in your garlic paste and immediately start stirring. Stir the garlic paste with your butter so that a film starts to form on the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring, and scraping up the film as much as possible, until it starts to smell vaguely of caramelized nuts. At this point, take your pot off of the heat. If you do this whole process at too high a heat or for too long, the garlic will burn and the soup will be bitter.
Once the garlic has started to smell nutty and slightly sweet, and you’ve taken it off the heat, you need to deglaze the pot with a hefty splash of water to cover the bottom. Return to heat and scrape furiously, getting every last bit of film and garlic off of the bottom of the pan (this won’t take much effort). Once it starts to simmer, add the rest of your water and a good dash of cracked pepper. Simmer until slightly reduced, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.
To make a creamy garlic soup, substitute half of your water with milk. You can also add in a few tablespoons of cream at the end. This soup goes well with buttered (GF) toast, especially if served to a congested person wrapped in a blanket. A word of caution though, if the cook is congested, then be careful not to stray to far from the recommended amount of garlic. If everyone in the house is congested, no one will know the difference, so feel free to add more = ).