First Light

Dinner:  January 2, 2008

Ahhhhh.

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.

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12 thoughts on “First Light

  1. This looks so fantastically appealing! It would never occur to me to add the egg, but I really like the idea! I can’t wait to try!

  2. Have you ever come across this book: The Conspirator’s Cookbook by Century Downing? In it he has a recipe very similar to what you tried although as I remember the garlic was roasted in olive oil until browned. You then mash it with a mortar and pestle and then add the broth to it. Oh, and a sprinkle of parmesean. Either way yours sounds equally tasty.

  3. Jennifer Hess says:

    Parsnip – Thanks!

    Vicki – we probably make a batch of stock a week this time of year. It’s nice to freeze it so we always have some on hand – plus it makes the house smell great. 🙂

    Maxine – Thank you! I’m a huge dork for putting poached eggs in/on everything these days.

    LunchStudio – I have not, but that variation sounds great, probably a good way to intensify the garlic flavor. And I can think of little that a bit of grated parm doesn’t improve!

  4. Jennifer Hess says:

    claudia – it was, and you should 🙂

    Luloah – thanks!

    Hillary – ha ha! No the “ick” is the flu I had over the holidays, also affectionately known as “the crud” or “SAR-bola” and which is thankfully, finally GONE!

    Happy New Year!

  5. Radka says:

    When I saw the picture, I thought that this was a yummy Czech soup I know! I’ll have to try this version. For those that are curious, the Czech soup goes something like this:
    Place grated cheese into the soup bowl along with a clove of crushed garlic. Then pour the boiling broth over it and add the croutons with whatever herbs you like.

  6. Jennifer Hess says:

    Radka – oh, that sounds lovely, I bet some grated cheese would make a great addition.

    Greg – it really makes it luxurious!

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