Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Sopa de Ajo

So, all you have in the kitchen is a half-empty bottle of oil, a can of chicken stock, a knob of brown bread, a flaking head of garlic, and some eggs hiding in far-flung corners of the carton? Maybe some smidgens of spices left in the cupboard? Don't exhale a dusty sigh of destitution, you have all the makings of a delicious dinner right in front of you! Sopa de ajo, or garlic soup, was created by penurious Spanish peasants who had to make do with only meager scraps of sustenance, such as water, oil, garlic, eggs, and yesterday's bread (traditional recipes don't even include chicken stock!). Although, for origins in such a humble array of ingredients, you'd fancy yourself a king eating a bowl of sopa de ajo (or, at least a baron). It's an intensely nourishing and warming soup, and when you break the poached egg and let the yolk swirl with the garlicky broth, the whole experience gets transcendentally rich and silky. It becomes something you crave even if the pantry's stocked full of caviar and truffles and such.

My personal recommendation for maximum enjoyment is to put on Les Blank's documentary short Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers as the soup is simmering, and as your desire for the stinking rose reaches fever pitch, dive into your finished soup!

Sopa de Ajo
Makes 2 large servings

Personal recipe with guidance from Rick Bayless' recipe 

*Scant 1/2 cup olive oil
*1 head garlic, cloves peeled and roughly chopped (at LEAST 20 cloves)
*2 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
*2 cups water
*2-3 slices of crusty brown bread, with or without crusts removed
*2 eggs
*1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
*Chopped cilantro or parsley to garnish (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 325. Heat the oil in a small heavy pot over medium-low. Add garlic, reduce heat and stir frequently for 20 minutes. Manage the heat so that the garlic simmers but doesn't brown. Once soft, drain the garlic and transfer to a larger pot, reserving the oil. In the larger pot, add the broth, water and paprika and simmer on medium-low. Season to taste. Meanwhile, cut the bread into cubes and toast in the oven for about 20 minutes, stirring a few times. Drizzle with some of the garlic oil, toss to coat, and return to the oven to cook for 5 more minutes. While the croutons are finishing up, poach the eggs. To serve, dish out the soup, add a poached egg to each bowl, and garnish with the croutons and some chopped cilantro.

*Especially good when you want to stave off a cold, or are in the throes of one - garlic is superhealthy*

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