Like most Americans, or so it seems, I like Thanksgiving better than any other holiday. Cook cook cook! Eat eat eat! Particularly easy to divorce from any tiresome ideological contexts! Oh, and pie... and mashed potatoes!
Like more Americans than you'd suspect, I like mashed potatoes better than any other food. Creamy dairy goodness! Artery-exploding amounts of butter! Fluffy potato cloudiness! Oh... and gravy! And often garlic!
The mashers we had at our last family Thanksgiving, celebrated right here in Portland, were particularly scrumptious. Gleaned from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, they featured copious amounts of garlic. Not sauteed... not roasted... but seethed in butter and turned, instead, into a delectable, unctuous cream that married fantastically well with the mountains of potatoes.
So last night, confronted with tiredness and a sparsely populated kitchen, I thought potato soup would be good. But maybe a little boring. Maybe I should jazz it up with some roasted garlic. But I didn't really want to hang around all day waiting for the garlic to roast, then squeezing the pulp out of each little clove.
Then it occurred to me that perhaps the garlic cream used for Julia's mashed potatoes would do well stirred into soup. I think it was definitely worth a do--and honestly, I can't think of many "cream of" veggie soups that couldn't benefit from a healthy dollop of this not-particularly-"healthy" stuff.
I'm splitting the soup recipe in two so that you can have access to the garlic cream no matter what sort of soup you want to make.
Humble Potato Soup (mostly after Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone )
2 Tbsp olive oil or butter (I used one Tbsp each)
Two medium onions, diced
Three bay leaves
Two pounds potatoes--you could use russets or boiling potatoes; I wanted the potatoes to fall apart easily, so I used russets--peeled, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced (you can do the slicing while the onions cook)
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 cup water
5 to 6 cups vegetable or chicken broth, depending on how thick you want the soup
One recipe Garlic Cream (see below)
1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
Perhaps a teaspoon or so of (Drunken Angel) hot sauce
Minced chives, for garnish
Heat the olive oil &/or butter in a soup pot over medium-low heat. Add onions and bay leaves; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and tender, about 7 minutes.
Add potatoes; increase heat to medium-high; cook, stirring frequently, until potatoes are glazed and moisture is mostly evaporated, about 5 to 7 minutes more.
Add salt and water; stir furiously to deglaze, scraping bottom of pot with spoon. Add broth; bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are extremely tender and tending to fall apart, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat.
At this point, you may either mash the potatoes with a potato masher, for a brothy/chunky soup, or you may puree the soup with an immersion blender, for a thick/creamy soup. (I did the latter, after being annoyed at the continuing brothiness of the former.) Either way, take out the bay leaves first.
Return to heat. Whisk in Garlic Cream and parsley; heat to a gentle simmer; taste and season with additional salt, pepper, and/or hot sauce, as you see fit.
Serve with chives strewn over each bowl, and with bread or crackers for that true carbo-load experience.
Arrogant Garlic Cream
Quantities given here are half those given in the original recipe; you could certainly make/include the larger quantity, and the soup would be none the worse for it.
15 medium cloves garlic, unpeeled
A small amount of boiling water--2 cups should do it
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
1/2 cup hot milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Put the cloves of garlic in boiling water; boil for two minutes. Remove, cool slightly (you can run cold water over them to speed up this process) and peel.
In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add garlic, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until garlic is very tender but not browned, about 20 minutes. (Or so says the original recipe. My garlic browned a little, but it tasted fine. And it didn't take quite 20 minutes--more like 15.)
Uncover saucepan; increase heat to medium; whisk in flour and cook, stirring, two minutes or until flour loses its raw look/taste. Whisk in hot milk; simmer, stirring, two minutes; season with salt and pepper.
Remove from heat and rub through a fine-meshed sieve (huzzah! another good use for that sieve!) into a bowl. Set aside until needed. (Go ahead and taste it, though. You need your eyes to roll back in your head today, don't you?)