I love Phoebe...
One of my cats loves to sniff everything and everyone. Except for garlic. This soup is perfect for when I want him to leave me alone in the kitchen. It calls for 8 heads of roasted garlic. Yes, eight. It sounds like a lot, but it actually isn't.
Roasting garlic takes the edge off its aroma, and it is much easier than peeling, chopping and sweating the bulbs. It's soooo tasty: the caramelisation that occurs in your oven brings on sweetness, smokiness and notes of earthiness. The bulbs become creamy-smooth and can be used as is on crusty bread (instant garlic toast!), with olive oil or butter atop steamed vegetables, or mixed into mayo for a zingy dip.
This is the home stretch folks. A few more weeks of winter -despite the unseasonably warm weather in Montreal, it still is winter out there- and it will be spring. This is the time when most people fall prey to lingering colds and the flu. Garlic is the perfect shield against the sniffles, and soup is the perfect medium for ingesting large quantities of the bulb. If eight heads of garlic sounds daunting, try Tea's garlic elixir. With a mere ten cloves it sounds like meeker fare, but somehow I doubt it is.
In either case, garlic soup is not as pungent as it seems. It's heart warming, health giving and it'll stave off any mean bug. If you are nursing a cold, or intend to feed this soup to someone who is ill, leave the milk out: dairy exacerbates phlegm, which is a bad idea.
Roasted Garlic Soup
serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main, or 1 very sick patient
oil for roasting
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs flour
½ litre (±½ quart) milk
½ to 1 litre vegetable or chicken stock, see note
1 sprig or pinch thyme
salt and pepper
chopped parsley or green onion, chopped vegetables for garnish
Note: if you intend to garnish the soup with little bits of vegetables, boil them in lots of water, and use the cooking water as a stock. Otherwise, a good store-bought low-sodium chicken stock, or even water will do just fine.
Cut off the top ¼ of each head of garlic. Place on baking tray or in an oven-proof dish. Liberally drizzle with oil. Pop into a pre-heated 400'F/ 200'C oven, and leave to roast for 30 to 45 minutes. You want the papery skin to brown but not burn. Allow to cool down before handling.
Meanwhile, melt butter in soup pot. Add flour and cook off until it starts to brown around the edges -you do not want a stark white roux.
Add the thyme, and cook for a minute more.
Whisk in milk (if using) and stock, stir until smooth -don't worry about lumps- and bring up to a boil. It should not be overly thick, more like a broth, yet thick enough to coat a spoon.
When the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze out the flesh from husks, making sure the papery bits stay out as they are quite bitter.
Add the garlic to your soup, and let simmer for 10 minutes.
Take off the heat. You can either pass the soup through a sieve, squeezing the garlic through the mesh, or you can blend the whole lot.
Return to the stove, and check the seasoning.
Serve unadorned, or with some diced vegetables and chopped herbs. Also nice with crunchy croûtons.