Sopa de Ajo con Huevos
I was very late to try it, but this week I finally made Jim Lahey’s now famous no-knead bread recipe. I’m not sure how it came to mind, but around 6 o-clock one evening, I decided that I absolutely could not go another minute without digging it out from a stack must trys I’d had going for a couple of years. After looking at the online video Mark Bittman created with Lahey, I bundled up and headed out for the ingredients. By 7, I was mixing up the dough and setting it in the oven for the initial long slow rise. The next day, after a few turns and second rise, it was in the oven pre-heated to scorching hot. I was cautiously optimistic.
It’s not that I didn’t believe that it turned out a perfect loaf each and every time, I just didn’t believe it would turn out well for me. Suffering from low bread self-esteem, I’d take on involved projects only to spend hours worrying that the yeast wasn’t sufficiently bubbly, that I’d over or under kneaded, that my kitchen was too cold and my oven too hot. Not surprisingly the results were uneven, sometimes flavorful but dense, and without the texture or crumb I’d hoped for. When the time was up, I was amazed to find a perfectly browned loaf still crackling and popping from the inside. There’s something about getting bread right that makes one feel like spinning themselves dizzy on an Austrian mountaintop if not actually Zeus-like.
Admittedly, my sense of accomplishment was a little misplaced. Steamy Kitchen has proved that a four year old can do it after all (though I don’t know if he handled the 450º oven part – just sayin’). It’s really about just letting the dough do the work during the initial slow rise. With winter bearing down and looking for excuses to keep the bread loves coming, I decided to make sopa de ajo. A classic Castilian soup that was also a favorite of my Cuban grandparents, I’d never actually made it before. There are million variations but the basic idea – that garlic sauteed in olive oil, seasoned with paprika, simmered in chicken broth and topped with poached eggs (or sometimes jam and chorizo) can be great no matter how simple – is the same. Like the bread, it was no mystery after all.
Sopa de Ajo con Huevos/Garlic Soup with Poached Eggs
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
8 garlic cloves, sliced
1 teaspoon pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika)
6 cups chicken stock
2-3 slices country-style white bread, cut in half (or try Lahey’s No-Knead Loaf)
4-6 extra-large eggs
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Fry both slices of bread until lightly browned on both sides, about 2-4 minutes.
Heat the remaining olive oil in the pan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook until it is soft and golden, about 3-5 minutes. Off heat so that it does not burn, add the paprika and blend well. Add the stock and return the pan to the heat and bring to a fast simmer. Boil for 5 minutes.
Crack the eggs into a cup or saucer and slide into the soup. Poach the eggs until the whites a set, 3-4 minutes. Place a piece of the fried bread, either whole or cut into chunks, in each bowl. Ladle the hot soup over the bread and top with a poached eggs. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.