Monday, October 18, 2010

Garlic for dinner

It's been a while since I last posted anything up on this blog. It's not because I've finally thrown in my apron after numerous failed  cooking projects (there have been many, the latest being an eggless chocolate cake which turned out lumpy -- go figure!). No. I recently got married and have had not much time to fool about in the kitchen as a result -- as it turned out, planning and execuing a disaster-free wedding takes a lot longer than I estimated as does recovering from planning and executing a disaster-free wedding. It was worth it in the end:  the day was really fun and my wedding cake (pic below) was just yummy.

Bride and Groom on the cake.
Cake (by JustHeavenly) was yum!
So anyway, almost settled in, I am ready to post my first entry, post-marriage. Now, I may not have been able to muck about in the kitchen but I did manage to score a couple of cookbooks during my honeymoon (yeah, how romantic is that!). Turns out, I have now in my hands two of my current favouritest cookbooks: Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Vols I and II) by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck.

Vol I

Yes, this is the book that inspired the Meryl Streep movie Julie and Julia. No, that's not the reason why I decided to buy the book. After all the movie has been out for about  a year already. The books have recently been reprinted into paperbacks (divided into two volummes) and Marty recently reviewed Volumme One for our Don't Call Me Chef column (Every Mondays in The Star: shameless plug, I know). I took the chance to browse through the book which Marty so cruelly flaunted on her desk (she got it for free as she was reviewing the book!) and I was immediately hooked.

The book isn't visually stunning. In fact, there are no pictures. At all. Its all text with some hand sketches of how the various (not all, mind you) dishes are to be prepared. Not at all visually attractive. But the book is really a very good instructional. It strips away all the pretensions that are sometimes falsely associated with French cooking. If you've seen any YouTube clip of Child in action, you'll know that she isn't about fancy presentation. She is, however, all about technique which, Child promises, once mastered will enable anyone to cook almost any dish. All it takes is passion and practice. 

Garlic soup... who would have thought.

I decided to start at the very beginning: with the chapter on soups. I like soups even on sweltering days like today. I chose to make the most unlikely of soups: Aigo Bouido or Garlic Soup. Uh-huh. Its a soup made with, well, garlic and seasoned with herbs, salt and pepper. Egg yolks add some bulk but that's really it. I am a huge fan of garlic and use it unsparingly in almost everything I make. But never once did I imagine making garlic soup. But, as Child promises, the bold after-taste one often gets  when cooking with a lot of  garlic is absent from this soup because of the method used. And, as she also promises, the flavour  is exquisite, aromatic and almost undefinable. 

The recipe
I seperated head or about 16 cloves of garlic
Drop the garlic gloves in a pot of boiling water and boil for about 30 seconds. Drain , run cold water over them and then peel.

1.5 liters water (Childs uses 3 pts)
2 tsp salt
pinch of pepper
2 cloves
1/4 tsp sage
1/4 tsp thyme
1/2 bay leaf 4 parsley sprigs
3 tbsp olive oil
A 5 pt saucepan
Put the garlic and the rest of the ingredients in the saucepan and boil slowly for 30 minutes. Correct seasoning.

A wire whisk
3 egg yolks
 2-3 tbsp olive oil
Whisk the egg yolks till they are thick and sticky. Drop by drop beat in olive oil  till well incorporated. It is important to add the oil literally a few drops at a time for it to blend well into the yolk mixture.

Rounds of hard French bread
Swiss or parmesan cheese
Just before serving, beat a ladleful of the boiling soup into the egg mixture, bit by bit. Strain the rest of the soup in beating and pressing the liquid out of the garlic. Serve with bread and cheese immediately.

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