As I’ve mentioned before, I have a large cookbook collection. My current index (yes, I alphabetize my addiction) stands at around 240, with 18 more waiting to be added. The majority of those are regional recipe collections from New Orleans and South Louisiana that I frequently turn to for inspiration and research. Coincidentally, I rarely cook straight from those books. I have more fun when I borrow an idea from one recipe and pair it with another. I also like using traditional ingredients in unconventional and fun ways. Recently, though, I made a commitment to myself to make at least one recipe a month directly from my collection. I thought it would be a great way to reacquaint myself with some of my favorite chefs/cookbook authors and their food. I’ve also decided to share those experiences with you through my “Cooking with …” posts.
Today’s post is about “Cooking with Susan Spicer.” I recently made the Cream of Garlic Soup from her one-and-only cookbook entitled Crescent City Cooking: Unforgettable Recipes from Susan Spicer’s New Orleans. (Sorry if I led you to think I had actually cooked alongside Chef Spicer. Boy, wouldn’t that be amazing?) Chef Spicer’s recipes are familarly different and classically edgy. She bascially takes New Orleans and other Southern dishes and infuses them with flavors from her worldly travels. This soup recipe is one that has intrigued me since I first laid eyes on it back in 2007. I thought, how on earth can you turn two cups of garlic cloves (along with six cups of onions) into anything edible much less enjoyable? The transformation, which relies heavily on patience, is amazing. Those two ingredients–and little else–come together to create a dish that is creamy, lucious and pleasantly garlicky. Chef Spicer’s cookbook is full of other great transformations too and is the perfect inspiration for anyone looking to broaden their Deep South cooking style.
Speaking of style, have you checked out my new “crab bowl” cradling that there serving of Cream of Garlic Soup? Isn’t it gorgeous? It’s one of my new finds from this year’s Jazz Fest. This bowl is part of the “Louisiana Seafood” collection by potter Sherry Lutz of Folsom, Louisiana. I fell in love with the colors and blue crab features on this particular piece. I also snagged a platter and a few other items adorned with jumbo Louisiana shrimp! Each of her works are amazingly detailed and they’re as practical as they are pretty (Lutz says you can even throw them in the dishwasher, but I’m not taking any chances). I love that almost as much as the soup!
Cream of Garlic Soup Recipe
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 cups peeled and sliced onions (about 2 pounds)
2 cups peeled, but not chopped, garlic cloves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried leaves)
7 cups chicken stock (or broth)
1 Bouquet Garni (made with parsley stems, thyme sprigs and bay leaf)
3 cups stale French bread, torn into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup half-n-half or heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and black pepper to taste
In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter with olive oil. Add onions and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are very tender and deep golden brown, about 40 minutes. Add thyme, 6 cups of chicken stock or broth and Bouquet Garni; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, add bread pieces and cook until bread is soft, about 10 minutes. Remove soup from heat. Remove and discard Bouquet Garni. Puree soup until smooth using an immersion or regular blender (if using a regular blender, process soup in small batches to prevent a heat explosion); return soup to desired temperature. Add half-n-half or heavy cream, cayenne pepper and more chicken stock if mixture is too thick. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Serve immediately. Makes 8-10 servings.
Recipe from Susan Spicer’s Crescent City Cooking: Unforgettable Recipes from Susan Spicer’s New Orleans.