Wednesday, March 07, 2007


Chef and TV personality Emeril Lagasse is fond of his “gollick.” Tonight, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I had a dose of Potato and Garlic Soup that would not only keep Emeril satisfied, but also is capable of creating a Vampire-Free Zone with a radius of several miles, thanks to its use of not just one, but three methods of incorporating garlic. If you want a potato soup that beats the ever-lovin’ crap out of cold Vichyssoise...or that baked-potato soup they sell at Houlihan’ attention!

I happened to have a gallon or so of my own made-from-scratch chicken stock tucked away in the freezer. I set this to thaw in the microwave while I busied myself with the prep work. The ingredients:

Three whole heads of garlic
6 cups of chicken stock (use vegetable stock if you want a kosher soup)
1/2 cup heavy cream
One leek, white and light green parts only, washed thoroughly and chopped fine
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
3/4 tsp salt
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 lbs Russet potatoes, peeled and hocked up into 1/2-inch chunks
1 lb Red Bliss potatoes, washed but not peeled, hocked up into 1/2-inch chunks
Couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
Handful of fresh chives

Here’s what you do:

Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Throw in the chopped leek - make sure you wash that bastid real good! - and sweat it for 5-8 minutes, until the leek is soft but not browned.

While the leek is cooking, dismantle one of the heads of garlic. Peel and mince three cloves, setting aside at least six more (you will use them later). When the leek is nice and ready, throw in the garlic and continue to cook for one minute. Mmmm, smells good already!

Sweating the leeks. Note the minced garlic on the right, ready to be added.

Now dump in six cups of chicken stock - if you don’t have your own, commercial clear chicken broth is fine. Add the salt and bring the whole mess up to a simmer.

Take the other two heads of garlic and rinse thoroughly - gotta get the schmutz offa the root end. Slice of the top third of each head and discard; also get rid of the papery outer skin (without getting too anal about it). Toss the heads into the Dutch oven with the broth and add the two bay leaves; then simmer over a medium flame, partially covered, for about 40 minutes. Now add the potatoes and simmer for another 20-30 minutes, until them ’taters are cooked through.

Using tongs, take the bay leaves out; discard ’em. Take the garlic heads - which by now should be nice and soft - out of the liquid. Using a paper towel so as not to burn the crap out of your hands, squoosh the cloves out (they will pop right out of their skins) into a bowl. Moosh ’em up thoroughly. Take about half of the mooshed-up garlic and stir it into the soup; reserve the rest. Add the cream; stir it in and bring the soup back up to a low simmer.

Pick the leaves off a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme and chop fine. Add this to the soup. I use a minimal amount of thyme because the Missus hates the stuff, but if you like that herbaceous flavor, add as much as 1 or 1 1/2 teaspoons. Go nuts...but remember that it’s easier to add more later than to take away if you’ve added too much. [Which is why you’ve used only half of that mooshed-up garlic. You can use more if you want to give the soup an extra garlicky kick.]

Got an immersion blender? Now’s the time to use it. You want to purée the soup to a smooth consistency while leaving in some chunks. If you don’t have an immersion blender, then purée some of the soup by transferring it to a blender. Just be sure to leave plenty of chunky potato bits to give the soup some tooth.

Correct the seasoning - add more of the garlic if you choose - and set the soup on low heat while you prepare the Finishing Touches.

Snip a handful of chives into little bitty pieces; set aside.

Take six good-sized garlic cloves and slice ’em lengthwise into thin slices. Heat three tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over a medium-high flame and fry up those garlic slices for about three minutes You want them to be crisp and lightly browned, but NOT burnt. When they’re done, remove them with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

Now ladle out that soup. Garnish each portion with a sprinkling of chopped chives and a few of the fried garlic chips. You should have enough to serve six - or four if they’re real Soup-Hounds.

Potato and Garlic Soup.

Soup by itself doth not a meal make. For an entrée, we had a rare and costly treat: Swordfish Steak. As a kid, I was served swordfish almost once a week, but nowadays, a good slab of sword costs a king’s ransom - comparable to beef tenderloin. But what the hell.

I put the slab of fish - at least an inch thick, it was a beauty - in a glass baking dish with a little olive oil. A little fresh ground black pepper, a shake or two of sweet paprika, a squirt of lemon juice, and off it went into a 350°F oven for about 20-25 minutes. You want to cook it through without letting it dry out.

Meanwhile, I made a sauce by juicing a couple of blood oranges, to which I added about half a lemon’s worth of juice to kick up the acidity. This went into a shallow pan, where I reduced it down to a syrupy consistency over medium-high heat. A few pats of butter stirred in, and voilà! Baked Swordfish in Blood Orange Sauce.

Swordfish in Blood Orange Sauce.

Fish. With Potato and Garlic Soup. Enjoy - and go and kill a few vampires.

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