Finally, the ick is gone, the holidays are behind us and it’s time to move forward. I love all of the rich food, the fancy drinks, the fun and indulgence of the holiday season, but I think I look forward even more to the paring down that takes place afterward. While I’m not one for making resolutions or declaring that I’m going to set out to lose some magical number of pounds, I do like to lighten things up a bit this time of year – rebooting my system, in a sense, with clean flavors and simple preparations to restore a bit of balance.
For our dinner last night, I wanted to use up a few little odds and ends we had around, in particular some bread cubes left over from our New Year’s Eve fondue. Bread pudding was my first thought, but I wanted something lighter. I thought back to a few recipes for bread and garlic soup that I had read, and decided to try my hand at a version of that – it would be warm and satisfying but not too heavy, just the thing for a blustery night.
I began by warming about six cups of our homemade chicken stock with four fat cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed. I minced a fifth garlic clove and added it to my zip-top bag of bread cubes, drizzling a bit of olive oil over and mixing the bread around until they were coated. I placed the bread cubes on a sheet pan and baked them in a 375 degree oven until they were crisp and golden – about 10 minutes – then I sprinkled a little coarse sea salt on top and set them aside. I added a teaspoon each of smoked paprika and sherry vinegar to my hot chicken/garlic stock, seasoned it with salt and pepper, and let it continue to simmer away while I poached a couple of eggs. To assemble the dish, I placed some of the bread cubes into bowls, ladled the hot broth over them, slid a poached egg into each bowl and topped them with a bit of finely chopped basil.
This soup may sound a bit austere, but it was anything but a plain-Jane meal. The yolk of the egg when broken and stirred through added just the right touch of richness and a velvety mouthfeel, and our broth was made even more bright and flavorful with the addition of the vinegar and paprika. I would have liked the garlic flavor to have been a bit more pronounced, so next time I’ll add another clove or two to the broth. All in all, I was pleased – this was a satisfying, tasty and restorative dish.