"The only real stumbling block is the fear of failure. In cooking, you have got to have a what-the-hell attitude." ~ Julia Child

Mon Dieu! Soupe a l’ail aux pommes de terre

by Julie Tilsner on February 4, 2008

in Minor Miracles, Soup is Easy, Soups

GarlicsoupEveryone is sick. Everyone. Half my kids’ class. Their teachers. Friends, neighbors. My daughter was sick all last week, briefly recovered, and then this very evening was felled by another passing ailment.

I’m not sick. But just in case I decided I’d better take preventative action.

When tout le monde is sick, what better than to attempt a garlic soup?

And not just any garlic soup. But the one memorialized in Julia Child’s famous Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Yes, even I have this classic (thanks, Babs!), although in the four years it’s been on my shelf I’ve been far too intimidated to try anything within its pages.

I have a vague, ill-thought-through plan to teach myself how to cook
better by going through the classic tomes, starting with the basics,
and working my way up to scarier things, like, you know, Supremes de volaille en chaud-froid, blanche neige, or Diplomate pouding de cabinet.

But not this week. Tonight, soupe a l’ail aux pommes de terre (garlic soup with potatoes) seemed just within my abilities. I mean, it’s garlic and water, potatoes and some herbs. How bad could I mess it up?

Shhh! Don’t answer that. Here’s what you do:

Separate a head of garlic so that you have about 16 cloves. Drop them into boiling water for 30 seconds, rinse with cold water, and peel.

Drop them into your lovely soup pot, along with:

2 quarts water
2 tsp salt
pinch of pepper
2 cloves
1/4 tsp. sage
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/2 bay leaf
4 parsley sprigs
3 Tbspns olive oil

Boil slowly for 30 minutes. Strain it, and return to the saucepan. Add about 3 cups of diced “boiling potatoes” (I used Yukon Gold) and a good pinch of saffron to the broth and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Correct the seasoning (whatever that means), and serve with French bread and grated Parmesan cheese.

Naturally I played fast and loose with the herbs. My fresh bay leaves were apparently purged by the Flamenco Guitarist in the course of cleaning out my fridge (he still gets the purple badge of courage for taking on this ugly chore), and who has parsley laying around? But I had thyme and I had sage and I had cloves, and it was all smelling pretty good after a few simmery minutes. Oh yeah, and the saffron. I almost forgot the saffron. I redeemed myself at the last minute.

I’d like to tell you that I ruined this experiment. It’s not out of the question, you know. I wondered how it would turn out even as I peeled the garlic cloves. But I’m happy to report the opposite: The soup was  golden and flavorful, delicious even. I had even had the foresight to buy a baguette earlier in the evening, and small bits of this, torn up and thrown into the bowl to soak up the broth, and with a little Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top of the whole thing…a delight I was not expecting this particular evening. I ate two entire bowls. The boy, when I could pry him from his Nintendo, ate one. He said, and I quote, “I kind of like it OK.”

The girl, sadly, was in bed, and not to be roused, although her brother kindly brought her up a bowl and put it at her bedside. She was already beyond the help of even Julia Child’s garlic soup. The question now is, am I? Stay tuned.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

elfini February 5, 2008 at 10:02 am

Ah, MORE soup for you!
Remember- make your body an inhospitable host! Mom’s aren’t allowed to get sick.


Audrey February 6, 2008 at 7:40 pm

Wow…I’ve never had garlic soup. And I’m quite a garlic fan. Thanks for sharing this!!
Audrey 🙂


Julie R February 8, 2008 at 3:55 pm

In Spain, Sopa al Ajo, they make it a lot of different ways, but I love it with hot paprika ….


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