Friday, January 29, 2010
Ithaca is freezing. Ice crystals cover the windows each morning, forming prisms and seaweed like shapes. Nearly every car has snow tires. Where once I loved austere white interiors, I now crave Marimekko. Winter is not only freezing, but there are weeks of gray skies. Days pass without a single beam of sunlight. The house is heated to sixty two during the day and fifty eight at night. We rely heavily on Craig's soups to give us a feeling of radiant warmth, and color.
One of Craig's favorite soups to make is Garlic Broth, Aïgo Boulido, from Lulu’s Provencal Table. As the cookbook brilliantly and forgivingly puts it, this soup is served in Provence to “soothe systems worn thin from enthusiastic celebration of the table.” We like it for those times, but also for its utter simplicity and warming effect.
On a particularly freezing day, the sky a thick gray that no sunlight could pass through, Craig decided to make Garlic Broth. I was engrossed in my task when he handed me my bowl. Afloat in the broth was a shiny fried egg, sprinkled with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. Holding the warm bowl, the ochre yolk, the light golden broth, it was as if the sun itself had just burst through the window and landed in my hands.
As I ate I thought about how cooking in season, in the winter, in the North East, we are releasing the energy we have stored from the sun. The seasons of sunshine and warm, workable earth are sustaining us through the winter when all is frozen and the sky is a persistent gray.
This local egg is from a chicken who eats local seed, grown in the sun. The garlic, grown in the rich black soil on the other side of the lake, ripens and cures in the warmth of summer, and is saved and coddled in the cool basement.
I never felt the direct link between work and harvest and surviving winter as immediately as I felt it the moment Craig gave me this bowl of soup. We survive the gray and cold both physically and spiritually through our store of the sun’s energy. Fortunately, we have the culinary gifts of Provence, and their wisdom about and reverence for food and sun, to make our survival beautiful, and delicious.
Garlic Broth, adapted from Lulu
1 quart water
2 bay leaves
1 head garlic, cloves separated and crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 egg yolks, the traditional recipe
4 whole eggs if you want to serve with fried egg
Garnish with scallions, chives or parsley
To make croutons:
Into a cast iron skillet on low heat pour a large splash of extra virgin olive oil. When it shimmers put in some day old plain baguette cut or torn into 1/2" cubes. Season with sea salt and black pepper to taste (a pinch of thyme or rosemary if you like) toss to coat the bread cubes with the oil and cook until toasted.
In a saucepan, bring the water, salt, bay leaves, garlic, and olive oil to a boil and hold, lid ajar, at a light boil for 15 minutes. For traditional: with wire whisk, whisk the egg yolks briefly in a soup tureen (any large bowl works fine.) Strain the broth, discard the bay leaves and garlic, and slowly pour the broth over the egg yolks, whisking at the same time. To serve, place toasted baguette or croutons in bowl and ladle broth over bread. For fried egg version, simply strain broth, ladle over croutons, and float the softly fried egg. Garnish and season well with salt and pepper.