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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Roasted Garlic Soup... Again

On the morning of Christmas Eve I did a very brave thing. I went to Whole Foods. Yes, that is right. At 10am on the morning before one of the biggest cooking and entertaining weekends of the year (and as it happens also the calm before a giant snowstorm being forecast to hit the Boston area right after Christmas; yet another reason for the hoards to trample onwards in hopes of produce, meats, last minute prepared foods and every day staples) there I was, list in hand, forging forward with the masses, trying not to hit people with my shopping cart. (I narrowly avoided hitting the same whole foods employee twice, poor guy. Of course when I apologized the second time around, I quite exaggerated and offered an apology for nearly hitting him "about 6 times now!")

Luckily I was quite successful in my undertaking: in and out of the store within half an hour, did not wait in long in line, got everything on my list. Also, I managed to find something I didn't know I was looking for, and in fact did not know existed.



The first item on my list was ten to twelve heads of garlic, for soup. And upon looking for garlic, I found nestled among the onions by the pound, bags of smoked garlic, on the stalk, woven together into something actually quite beautiful. As soon as I picked one up I was hit with the strong smoky smell.

Too bad I didn't take a picture before decimating the pretty braid
I had offered to make a garlic soup as a starter for my family's Christmas night dinner.  Over the past few years a tradition has emerged, Christmas dinner= Paella. Since I had recently made this Spanish inspired garlic soup, I offered to make it again as a starter fitting with the Spanish theme. I tried to imagine how the smokier flavor would translate into the soup.

You can read my original recipe for roasted garlic soup here. This time around I did things a little differently. Since I had so many cloves of garlic to peel and roast, I decided not to peel them at all. I put 10 heads worth of whole cloves unpleeled into a covered casserole dish with some olive oil, into the hot oven (400 degrees) for 45 minutes to an hour, until the cloves inside their peels were soft. I used a combination of smoked garlic and unsmoked for this, about 2 heads of unsmoked, 8 heads smoked, and reserved an additional head of each uncooked, to add later for sharpness.

After the cloves were roasted, I squeezed them out from their peels into a large stock pot. I covered them with 8 cups of water and 3 cups of vegetable stock (I was making this as a starter for 17 people, and wanted to make sure there was enough) and let the liquid simmer for 20 minutes. Next I used my immersion blender to blend together the stock and cooked garlic until smooth. I tasted the mixture and decided it needed more garlic, so i peeled and smashed 6 cloves and added them, allowing them to cook into the mixture for a bit before blending again.

When I had reached my chosen level of garlicyness, I made a roux to thicken the soup, then added paprika (both smokey Spanish and sweet Hungarian varieties) and a bay leaf, some Aleppo pepper, plenty of salt and black pepper, and then started adding in the parmesean cheese. This is best done slowly, adding in a bit at a time to the hot soup, using a whisk to make sure the cheese incorporates. I also added some heavy cream at this point, which made the soup more rich and smooth.

To serve the soup I made parmesan crostinis, slicing some of my favorite Iggy's bread, brushing it with olive oil, and sprinkling with freshly shredded parmesan, before placing it in the broiler for a few minutes to brown and crisp up.

In the end the smokier flavor was quite subtle, the soup was very similar to the first time I made it, but had a bit more depth and interest. Overall I would say it was a hit, I noticed many empty bowls as we cleared away the first course!

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