Many years ago I visited Bayona, the high end restaurant run by legendary New Orleans chef Susan Spicer. The first course was a soup I’ve never had at any other restaurant, and I suspect most chefs don’t have the balls to serve: Cream of Garlic soup.
If you know me, you know my love of garlic. My love of the stuff looks tame next to Sarah ‘pass me another clove’ Imber Safdar. And this soup was killer. I remember finishing every last bit of my bowl and thinking, “Ok, meal’s over. Let’s end it right there.” So after several years of looking for it in restaurants, I decided that last night I would finally attempt the soup on my own.
[“On my own”, is a misnomer of course. We just redid our kitchen, and cooking is usually Sarah and I in the kitchen together, one of us being sous chef for the other. It took a lot of work from both of us to make this dish, so tell Sarah how good it looks next time you see her.]
If you can, make this dish the day before you need it. It mellows with a night in the fridge.
You start with onions and garlic, chopping both. When you’re done and you look at the enormous quantity of garlic you have chopped, you might be stunned, I know I was. For a half recipe we went through at least four heads of garlic.
The recipe tells you to toss the garlic and the onions into a heavy-bottomed pot for thirty minutes on low, until the onions are golden brown. However Sarah pointed out that garlic and onions cook at different rates, so if you put them both in at the same time, you’ll find your onions brown and the garlic burned. Since this ruins the garlic we just spent thirty minutes peeling and chopping, we cooked the onions alone for fifteen minutes and then added the garlic for the last fifteen.
After that you toss in your chicken broth and a little spice. We just used some thyme, though Susan Spicer has a more involved set of spices she recommends. Bring to a boil, then add your breadcrumbs and simmer for 10 minutes.
Ok, now it’s time to start endangering yourself with some serious gear. Remove the soup from heat, find a blender, and pour the entire mixture into it. If you make the full recipe and you haven’t recently looted an ice cream store or a restaurant kitchen, you’ll be doing this in two stages with a normal size blender.
Blend the soup on puree (overblending is fine) and then strain it back into a pan for the second heating. Once it’s all strained, check the consistency. Too thick? Whisk in more chicken broth. Too thin? Add the half and half. Taste it now (you won’t be impressed yet) and then season it with salt and pepper. Check the consistency again. Too thick? Add more broth. We added two rounds of broth before we were happy with it.
Now garnish it with a little yogurt and taste. We tried adding truffle oil but found it was already very rich, and the truffle oil only made it more so.
Finally, if you can, let it sit overnight. I ate my bowl that night, but Sarah left some for the next day and then called me at work to rave about how it matured after an evening of chilling.