Apr 28, 2010

Garlic Soup: Gearing up for Cinco de Mayo

I'm not a soup eater.  Never have been.  The thought of (seemingly) everyone's favorite, the ubiquitous Chicken Noodle Soup makes my stomach go floppy, my gag reflex go on overdrive, and my feet point the other way.  So it's not at all comforting to me if someone brings me soup when I'm sick.

Now, I like gumbo just fine.  But gumbo is not soup.  Gumbo I get.  Stew I get.  Soup I shake my head at because I rarely see the appeal.

Yep.  I said rarely.  There are a handful of soups (well, there's an image...a hand full of soup) that I've come to tolerate, even like.  Creamy Tomato-Basil Soup, Tony Bourdain's Mushroom Soup from his Les Halles cookbook (heaven), an albondigas soup from Bon Appétit I recently made.  But there are two soups, it turns out, that I really, really love. 

Lime Chicken Soup, which I've blogged about before, and Garlic Soup.  That's what I said.  Garlic.  Soup.  When I first made this several years ago I thought the idea was wild (which is why I made it).  Now it seems everywhere I look, someone's making garlic soup.  Emeril has one.  New Orleans chef Susan Spicer serves one.  The New York Times has published a few.  After a little digging, I found that Julia Child made garlic soup too.   Maybe it's like shopping for a new car and falling in love with a model you never once thought about.  After you drive it off the lot you start noticing that every 3rd car on the road is your car.  And then you say to yourself...where have I been?

But this garlic soup is not quite like any I've seen.  There's a special trick to it that I'll get to later.  The recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks: The Border Cookbook by Cheryl & Bill Jamison.  I've tried many, many recipes from this book and have not encountered a dud yet.  Plus, the book includes recipe histories, regional differences, and numerous anecdotes.  My kinda thing for sure.

It's not soup season, but Cinco de Mayo is coming up.  So I thought it'd be a grand idea to feature this soup along with plugging my favorite Mexican/Tex-Mex cookbook.

This soup is pretty spicy, but that can be personalized.  The garlic flavor is mellow despite the fact that there are 3 heads of garlic in it.  And I LOVE the lime juice.  The lime juice absolutely makes the soup and makes me want more of it.  This is also a big reason why I love the Lime Chicken Soup I mentioned earlier. 

Maybe I should just suck on a few limes and not bother cooking anymore.

My one complaint about this Garlic Soup is that it's thin.  I usually hate thin, overly brothy soups, so the fact that I like this so much should tell you something.  It can't be considered a meal on its own...not filling enough.  I like to serve it soup & sandwich style with quesadillas (some really fine ones are coming up next week) or with my most favorite Mexican dish, Chiles Rellenos.

Mise en place for Garlic Soup: Garlic--which will be roasted, olive oil, onion, cumin, chipotle pepper(s), salt, chicken stock, lime juice.  Evaporated milk can also be added to help thicken the soup.

First, the garlic has to be roasted.  See how to do that here

Once the garlic heads cool enough to handle, squeeze the garlic from the skins.
I really want to spread this on toasted bread.  But I also really want garlic soup. 
Now I really want a bowl of garlic soup topped with garlic-smeared bread.
How's about a kiss?

Heat olive oil in a pot.  While the oil heats, slice the onion.  Sauté the onion in oil until some color develops and the onion softens.

Place the roasted garlic and the sautéed onion in a blender--I like to use the gadgets my immersion blender came with.  Puree away.
This would be so good added to mashed potatoes or potatoes au gratin.  Heck, it'd be good added to just about anything.

Now here's the trick.  Don't screw it up or your soup won't be as good as it could be.
Heat additional oil in your pot.  Make sure it's hot and sizzling.  Very carefully, pour the puree into the hot oil.  It will splatter.  It needs to splatter.  That means the oil is hot enough to "fry" or brown the puree...and that my friends is Secret #1.
Stir the mixture around for a few minutes.  Don't be afraid to let it take on some color.  That's part of what makes this soup good.

Next, add the chipotle pepper(s), cumin, and salt.
We like spicy food.  I use 1 chipotle in adobo and we think that's plenty.

Pour in the chicken stock and simmer for 40-45 minutes.

The Border Cookbook mentions a regional variation for this soup: adding half & half.  I use evaporated milk, about 1/2 c.  I like to do this because I think it helps give the soup a bit more body.  I add it near the end of cooking--maybe about 15 min. before serving.

Next comes Secret #2: the lime juice.  Add it right before serving and don't skip it.  
Even if you think eeew...that's weird. 
Hey, you're making a soup made out of 3 whole heads of garlic.  Why shy away now?
I promise you, this little acidic flavor boost will make your mouth water and make you come back for more.  And more.

Serve it up alongside quesadillas, enchiladas, or your favorite Mexican food. 

The Ultimate Soup Recipe List ~ Linky Party

Food on Friday: Garlic @ Carole's Chatter

Want a printer friendly version of the recipe?
Garlic Soup
adapted from The Border Cookbook

3 whole heads of garlic
2 tbsp olive oil, plus more to drizzle over garlic heads
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
8 cups chicken stock
1-2 dried or canned chipotle peppers (2 were very spicy)
½ tsp salt, or to taste
½ tsp ground cumin
juice of ½ to 1 lime (don’t skip this—it really adds something)

Preheat oven to 400. Place whole heads of garlic in a small baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Bake until very soft, for about 45 minutes. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the garlic from the skins and reserve.

Pour 1 tablespoon of the oil into a large saucepan or Dutch oven and warm over medium heat. Add the onion to the oil and sauté until softened and browned in spots. Transfer the mixture to a blender along with the roasted garlic. Puree, adding a little stock if necessary, to blend the mixture.

Add the remaining oil to the saucepan and warm over medium-high. When the oil is hot, pour in the blender mixture, being careful of any splatters. Sauté until it just begins to dry out and color. Add the rest of the stock, chipotle, salt, and cumin, and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer for 40-45 minutes, remove from the heat, and add the lime juice.

Note: one regional variation is to add half and half or evaporated milk to the soup before simmering. I like to add about ½ c evaporated milk during the last 15 minutes of cooking. I think this helps give more body to the soup.


  1. Well...I do like soup. LOL... and I love garlic..and I love Cinco de mayo. So ya got me with everything.

  2. I was never a soup person before either, but I guess I'm coming around to it lately. Funny how your tastes change as you go. I love it that this is a soup made solely from garlic - you know that's some good stuff! Plus, maybe we mothers should eat a HUGE bowl. Do you think that would make everyone shy away from us and give us a much deserved break? - LOL! That sounds terrible, doesn't it?

  3. My favorite mex food is chile rellenos, too! I'm going to check out your recipe. I love brothy soups and have been wanting to make garlic soup for some time. Glad to know that it makes a better side than full course. I'll give this a try.

  4. Michelle, I am going to have to try this - I have had garlic soup in a restaurant - the garlic came out of my pores for days! Cheers

  5. This looks delicious - I love soup but hae never seen garlic soup before - this looks so good, right up my ally and I'll keep those vampires away ;) New follower - would love for you to come check out my blog too!


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