Today exhausted me. A Thursday 5 p.m. deadline inexplicably became a Wednesday 2 p.m., and somehow, on what is supposed to be the deadest (inventive language like this is what I get paid the big bucks, folks) news week of the year, I was under an avalanche of it. Plus, there were other insults to injury: I had my first warm latte of the cooler season and spilled a good sum of it on my pink shirt, I stepped in a puddle and my surprisingly absorbent sandals remained damp and cold all day and I realized that flame-tinted leaf I’d seen this weekend and considered sort of a fluke, might not have been. Don’t get me wrong — I love fall — just not in August.
Reminding myself that complaining about the weather makes for about as interesting conversation as “wow, I thought it was 4:15 but it’s only 3:45,” I decided to roll with it, as well as with The Coolest Anniversary Present Ever from my husband: an eggplant-colored, 7.25 quart oval Cocotte and a soup I’ve had bookmarked since last winter.
Let’s just cut to the chase already: the soup has 44 cloves of garlic in it. 28 are roasted and then peeled, 18 peeled and then simmered, and somehow the outcome is subtle, but not boring. My 11-clove serving was heavenly, and with a glass of wine we fell back into that haze of garlic Ruth Reichl so aptly describes in Comfort Me With Apples after feasting on duck with garlic mosaics, fish wrapped in puffs of garlic pastry, lamb surrounded by garlic puree, arugula salad with garlic-rubbed croutons and poached figs in red wine with garlic meringues at Chez Panisse.
“If everyone ate more garlic, the world would be a happier place,” she says, and if this soup is any indication, I wholeheartedly agree.
44-Clove Garlic Soup with Parmesan Cheese
From Bon Appetit, February 1999
26 garlic cloves (unpeeled)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
2 1/4 cups sliced onions
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
18 garlic cloves, peeled
3 1/2 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)
4 lemon wedges
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place 26 garlic cloves in small glass baking dish. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Cover baking dish tightly with foil and bake until garlic is golden brown and tender, about 45 minutes. Cool. Squeeze garlic between fingertips to release cloves. Transfer cloves to small bowl.
Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and thyme and cook until onions are translucent, about 6 minutes. Add roasted garlic and 18 raw garlic cloves and cook 3 minutes. Add chicken stock; cover and simmer until garlic is very tender, about 20 minutes. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Return soup to saucepan; add cream and bring to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.
Divide grated cheese among 4 bowls and ladle soup over. Squeeze juice of 1 lemon wedge into each bowl and serve.
Do ahead: Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat, stirring occasionally.