|The Côte d'Azur Cure-All Soup|
Well, I finally made it through whatever allergy/cold I woke up with two weekends ago. It could have come about because I was a little run down. Or, maybe because I'm in contact with more germs than usual these days. Or, maybe it really was the blooming ragweed in this part of the country.
Even As I type that it just seems wrong. Such a healthy, successful even inspirational word, to describe such a misery-inducing weed. Well, now I feel bad. I mean, even weeds have their place on this planet. I believe my brother Randy once said to me, "Audra, a weed is just a plant in the wrong place."
Fine, fine. Ragweed does deserve the chance to fulfill its purpose, of course. For some of us though, it's quite difficult to find any joy in that plant/weed/whatever's journey! Sitting around, foggy and unfocused, googling "allergic rhinitis + first-born allergies + alternative therapies to deal with life when you cannot stop sneezing + complete irritability," or even the fact that the ragweed had an hallucinatory effect on me. Yes! Last week I actually said I would make an appointment… with an allergist. I barely see the doctor/repairman/cleaners/hair stylist/mechanic/manicurist when I should. Now an allergist?!
So, yes, I was miserable, I could not think straight and I recognize the fact that I behaved worse than my second graders do in regards to where I wiped my nose most of the time. One good thing? I found the opportunity to make this wonderful soup again. Although this "cure-all" soup did not exactly "cure," it still warmed and satisfied. For you positive, silver-lining types out there, it could even be considered a modified garlicky-eggy-cheesy Neti Pot. Kind of?
This Côte d'Azur soup is considered the south of France's version of chicken soup, though. The common cold, a dreary day, a hangover, you name it, it promises to feed it. We first made this soup last winter when John was enticed by the outrageous amount of chopped garlic it calls for, as well as the idea of warm, comforting soup on a cold, snowy night. I remember it tasting very good, but could not remember it exactly. Well, if eating it this time around for dinner and then again the following day for breakfast, lunch and dinner and then still wishing I had more is any indication, this soup is delightful. It is thick and dense, and the garlic is not too bold or overpowering, probably from the cooking and then boiling process. Ultimately, this soup turns a creamy, buttermilky shade of blonde, and looks rather elegant and dramatic with flecks of dark pepper floating on top.
Now this soup may not "cure" you, but it will surely satisfy any desire for a bold, unique, can't-stop-sipping-and-slurping soup or meal.
Côte d'Azur Cure-All Soup
(adapted from Dorie Greenspan's "Around My French Table")
*1 large, unblemished head of garlic (at least 10 cloves)
*6 fresh sage leaves
*2 bay leaves
*2 large thyme sprigs
*6 cups water or 3 cups water + 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
*salt and freshly ground pepper
*3-6 large egg yolks
*1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
*extra virgin olive oil, for serving
Separate the garlic into cloves and peel them. Split each clove and remove the little germ at the center, (by removing the germ or "sprout," the slender, teardrop-shaped central piece, you will cut down on the bitter taste of an older clove of garlic) and thinly slice the garlic. Toss the garlic slivers into a large pot of Dutch oven.
Tie the sage, bay leaves and thyme together with kitchen twine or gather and bundle together into a piece of cheesecloth and close with twine, making a bouquet garni. Place in the pot. Pour in the water or broth, add 1 tsp. of salt, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let the soup simmer gently for 30 minutes.
Pull out the bouquet of bundled herbs and discard. At this point you could begin to puree the soup in batches, or just bring it to a boil and then lower it to a simmer (the non-pureed and traditional version).
While the soup is simmering, whisk 3 egg yolks and the Parmesan together in a bowl. Continue whisking and add a few ladlefuls of the soup so as to temper and not curdle or scramble the yolk-cheese mixture in the hot liquid. Now, whisking the soup in the pot, gradually add the yolk-cheese mixture in a steady stream. Whisk for 1 minute and decide if you will add more egg yolks (I honestly think 6 is the way to go for the full taste and experience). If you too decide on 6, whisk the additional 3 yolks (or whatever amount you decide) in a small bowl with a little soup before adding to the pot.
Remove the pot from the heat and whisk for 1 minute more. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Serve with a few strong grinds of pepper and a drizzle of olive oil over each serving. The soup will be good cold (or even slightly rewarmed) the next day as well.