A few days ago my daughter in California sent me a text asking how long to cook a soft-boiled egg. A follow-up conversation ensued relating to preparing the egg for my grandson’s breakfast. It conjured up the memory of my mother making us one of my favorite comfort foods which I later prepared for my small children. It is very simply cracking the soft-cooked egg in a bowl with torn bread, adding a bit of salt and stirring until thoroughly mixed and egg in absorbed. My grandson’s response? “This is the best thing I ever ate!” I smiled to think how such a simple thing could evoke that response. I remembered how happy it made me when I was young and how much my children loved it as well…and now their little ones.
This brings me to the recipe I share with you today. How does it relate? It relates because it too has been shared and passed so the joy of eating it can be experienced by many. In addition, the first time I ate it I felt the joy one experiences when the palate dances with delight from beginning bite to the end. I have been accused of exaggerating when enthusiasm takes over my brain but I assure you, when I say this was one of the best things I ever ate, it is no hyperbole! Here is how it came to me. A good friend invited us for dinner and served this as the first course. It was truly the star of the evening amongst the diners. I had to have the recipe which I learned came from Emeril Lagasse’s book, “New Orleans Cooking.” He spoke of preparing Christmas eve dinner with his mother-in-law and no matter what the menu, this soup always had a presence on the table. Special to him, now special to me and I plan to make it for my family this holiday season. See how it goes? Perhaps you will also find it special enough for you and yours.
GARLIC SOUP w/ Creole Croutons Makes 6 cups
Recipe by Emeril Lagasse
This recipe is truly delicious enough for a special occasion and easy enough for a weeknight meal. Thickened with bread, it calls for very little dairy. Make it vegetarian by substituting vegetable stock.
2T olive oil
1 ½ c sliced onion
1/3 c peeled garlic cloves (about12-14)
3 bay leaves
2 ½ t salt
7 turns freshly ground black pepper
2 quarts chicken stock
1T minced garlic
1t fresh chopped basil
1t fresh chopped thyme
2c diced day-old French or Italian bread
½ c heavy cream
1/3 c coarsely grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1c Creole Croutons (recipe below)
- Heat the oil in a soup pot over high heat. Add the onions, garlic cloves, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Stir well and sauté until the onions are caramelized, for about 7 minutes (don’t let the onions get too dark; they should be sweet-tasting and a rich golden-brown color).
- Stir in the stock, minced garlic, basil, and thyme, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 40 minutes. Turn the heat back up to high and whisk in the bread and cream and continue whisking until the bread has disintegrated into the soup, about 10 minutes. Whisk in the Parmesan and remove from heat.
- While the soup is simmering, prepare the croutons (or prepare ahead).
- Puree the soup in a food processor or blender.
- Serve the soup hot, allowing about 1 ¼ c per portion. Top with the croutons.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Toss 1c day-old bread cubes with 2t olive oil and 1t Emeril’s Creole Seasoning on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Store in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Jeanne’s note: I have made this soup the day before and reheated the next day. If you do not have Emeril’s Creole Seasoning, you can use any brand Creole or Cajun seasoning you like.
You might be thinking 12-14 cloves of garlic is excessive but the sharpness, usually present in this member of the lily family, is significantly mellowed by the cooking process, much like the effect of roasting it. What enhances the overall flavor is the fresh herbs, and of course, the addition of a good quality Parmesan cheese. The use of bread as a thickener allows for a minimum amount of dairy to achieve the creamy texture. The piece de resistance, or icing on the cake, if you will, are the croutons adding a bit of spice and crunchiness to contrast the silky soup.
I recently featured this recipe in a soup making class and it was the undisputed favorite. After smelling it cook and talking about it, I decided to spread the love in my home and make it the next night. I discovered afterwards that it was Emeril’s birthday that day. What a fitting tribute! So thank you, Chef Lagasse, for spreading your love and sharing your culinary creations. Grab the garlic and keep spreading the love around your table, one delicious dish at a time. I know you will be making this more than once. Until the next time, BAM!