Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Pungent Passion






















Flavors:
Butter sautéed leeks, simmered with potatoes in chicken broth until tender and creamy, then puréed into a smooth, luxurious soup with roasted garlic, milk and cream.


Want the recipe?
It’s at the bottom of this post.


Want the wine pair?
Next Thursday’s post will have all my food and wine pairing tips.


Want the beer pair?
It’ll be following the wine pair post, so be sure to check back.


Repelling vampires.  Protecting against the evil eye.  Warding off demons, werewolfs and other supernatural beings.

Wow, what a great product – who could have thought one thing could do all that?

And don’t forget about those jealous nymphs said to terrorize pregnant women and engaged maidens.  It’ll stop them dead in their tracks.  And even more importantly, all you need to do to be provided its protection is to wear it, hang it in windows or thresholds or rub it on chimneys and keyholes.

All right, all right, already.  Where do I call to get some quick?

Well, I suppose most any grocery store will do.  And although I’ve never been able to test out its effectiveness against any of those particular ailments, I can say that its pungent fragrance, while repelling others, has only helped to draw me close.

Garlic.  My pungent passion.

And for many the world over, the very strength of its fragrance was its strongest selling point.   For with something so strong, it must somehow be possible to transfer those very strengths on to you, so that, you too, could be heady and pungent, and be drawn, inextricably, to soups, sauces and spicy condiments.

Which I am, but getting back to heady and pungent, just like onions, the more you cut garlic, the stronger the flavor and more potent the smell.  In fact, finely mincing one raw clove of garlic releases more flavor than that of a dozen whole cooked cloves.  And just as in onions, chopping ruptures the cells, releasing an enzyme that results in the sharp smell we have all come to recognize in kitchens the world over.

But moving on from outside to inside, once eaten, those sulfur molecules that are so pungent when airborne, are also absorbed into the bloodstream and lungs, and later escape through exhaled air and perspiration, resulting in such memorable exchanges as, "You smell so divine, just like garlic,” and, "please kiss me again, garlic breath."

Which is all rather ironic, since garlic has long been considered an aphrodisiac.  In fact, in both Hinduism and Jainism, garlic is considered to not only stimulate and warm the body, but to increase one's desires.  And for this reason, some Hindus omit garlic from foods prepared for religious festivals while monks and followers of Jainism avoid garlic altogether.

But one man’s loss is always another man’s gain.  And for those of us willing to put up with all that excess stimulation, we’re rewarded with dishes the likes of the dreamy French sauce, “aioli,” (made by mixing garlic with egg yolks and then olive oil), the Italian anchovy dip, “bagna cauda,” the Middle Eastern spread, “hummus,” and the Greek sauce, “tzatziki,” to name a few.

Of course, cooking garlic greatly reduces its pungency, but roasting it, transforms it completely into a whole another kind of animal.  Or rather, make that herb. 

To perform this flavorful miracle, cut off the top of the whole head of garlic and coat both halves with oil, then wrap in aluminum foil, before tossing into a moderate oven to roast to a sweet, mellow, nutty perfection.  To eat, forget about knife and fork.  We’re going primordial.  Either squeeze the root end of the whole bulb or, to enjoy individually, gently squeeze one end of each clove.  It's best to do this last technique (the one with each clove) positioned directly over your mouth.  I've never personally tried it with the whole head, but don't let that stop you, if you're so inclined.  And roasted garlic is a wonderful accompaniment to roast pork with apples or, if beef is your meat, a roasted ribeye or filet mignon.

But for me, at this time of year, there's not much that’s more soul warming than a heart warming bowl of steaming soup.  And with roasted garlic, you'll feel the love in every mouthful, like a soft embrace meant just for you.



GARLIC POTATO LEEK SOUP

Serves 4 – 6

3 leeks (about 3 pounds)
3 large Russet potatoes (peeled, cubed)
3 tablespoons butter
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
½ cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon roasted garlic or garlic paste
kosher salt and pepper to taste

Trim the leeks, cutting away all but the white and very light green portions.  Slice lengthwise through the white portion, then rinse the leeks well under cool running water, spreading the layers apart to remove any dirt or sand.  Once clean, slice thinly crosswise and set aside.

Add the butter to a large pot over medium low heat.
Once melted, add the leeks, mixing gently to coat with the butter.
Cook 5 – 8 minutes, stirring frequently until leeks are softened and pale portions turn bright green.

Add the potatoes and broth, bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low.
Simmer soup for 20 minutes, until potatoes are tender.

Remove from heat, let cool slightly, then purée the mixture.
Add the warmed half-and-half and roasted garlic or garlic paste & mix thoroughly to incorporate.
Add salt and pepper to taste before serving garnished with a clove of roasted garlic.


Here’s a peek at what’s coming up next – 

 

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