cold chaser

This is going to sound pathetic, but I have been trying to turn out a batch of chocolate chip cookies since the beginning of September. My husband Mark is a science teacher at Bayfield High School. And I know from experience that the transition back into the chaos of the classroom can be a rough one. So naturally I thought chocolate chip cookies would help.

I must have taken the butter out to come to room temperature at lest a dozen times, only to return it – untouched – back to the fridge at the end of another long day. When I finally did get the dough mixed up, it was a two day affair to get all the cookies into the oven and baked. And after all that, they didn’t even come out looking very pretty. But at least they taste good.

It appears, however, that my efforts might have come a little too late. Mark flopped down on the couch this weekend and succumbed to his fate. “They finally  got me,” he moaned. It’s inevitable. It happens every fall. It’s only a matter of when. The dreaded back-to-school cold. And this year’s is a doozy – already making its way deep into his lungs.

But this time I was ready for duty. Garlic! This boy needs garlic and lots of it. And so as a cure for Mark (and a preventative for myself) I made up a steaming pot of garlic soup. It’s a simple soup with just a handful of ingredients, but don’t let that fool you. Its flavor is rich and complex. Head cold or not, if it doesn’t bolster your spirits after a long day, I don’t know what will.

The key is to make this soup with the freshest garlic you can find. Older garlic runs the risk of being too hot and sharp. This time around I used a nice mild Spanish Roja. The recipe, which comes via the New York Times Cookbook, calls for roughly 36 cloves of garlic. Since garlic cloves can vary quite a bit in size, I’ve settled on average clove weight of 3 to 4 grams. So depending on the garlic I’m using, I typically chop up anywhere from 100 – 150 grams of garlic. Cold? What cold? I knew it was working when midway through dinner Mark sighed and said he wanted to drink the soup like milkshake.

Soupe à L’ail (garlic soup)
Adapted from the Essential New York Times Cookbook

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
36 average size, cloves of garlic (100-150 grams), peeled and roughly chopped
8 cups water
Salt and ground pepper to taste
3 ounces capallini or other thin pasta, broken into pieces
6 eggs, separated
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Fresh thyme for garnish
Olive oil

Melt the butter and oil in a large soup pan. Add the garlic and cook, stirring for about a minute – do not let it brown. Add the water and about a teaspoon of sea salt. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Strain the cooking liquid and reserve the garlic. Put 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and all of the garlic into a blender or food processor and whiz into a smooth puree.

Return the rest of the cooking liquid along with the garlic puree back to the soup pot and bring it to a boil. Add the pasta. Cook for about 3 minutes, until pasta is just tender. Meanwhile, blend the egg yolks with the vinegar.

Turn off the heat, pour the egg whites into the hot soup, cover and wait a few minute until the egg white form a cloud-like mixture. Do not stir them in. When the whites are fully cooked, add the egg yolk/vinegar mixture and stir very slowly to combine. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme and a drizzle of olive oil.

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