Wednesday, June 4, 2008

French Month #1: No French Kissing with this Recipe

June is French cuisine month in the Nest (my new name for my eensy-weensy apartment). I’m exploring the tastes and techniques and really, just seeing how I like it. This week, I tackled something relatively simple and slightly familiar: aigo buido.

Aigo Buido is a garlic soup out of Provence; I got the recipe from—who else?—Julia Child. I don’t own the Art of French Cooking (but I certainly covet it whenever I see it), but I do have the collected recipes from her PBS cooking show, The French Chef. She is such a wonderful lady. I really adore her. My sister (who, by the way, does own the Art of French Cooking) made this soup for me a couple of years ago, in honor of Julia and the date of her death. It was good—followed up, in a minor clash of cuisine, by the only eggplant parmesan I’ve ever liked.

Aigo Buido is made by simmering two heads worth of unpeeled garlic cloves, savory herbs, and saffron in water, then straining everything out. Squeeze the juices out of the garlic, and you have a clear garlic infused broth. In the meantime, beat a quarter cup of olive oil and three egg yolks into a thick, mayonnaise-like sauce. Let me tell you, my arm still hurts from all that work! Once the two components are ready, beat the sauce while adding a cup of soup a little at a time. Then mix in the rest of the broth. The trick is not to let the hot broth cook the eggs in the sauce. My sister reported that she messes up this soup every couple of times; sometimes it’s excellent, sometimes it’s a gray cloud with egg bits floating unappetizingly around. I am proud to report that I did not cook the egg; regardless, I’m still having mixed feelings about the resultant soup.

The soup was not overwhelmingly garlicky, though you’d expect that from two heads of garlic. It was a satisfying texture, very smooth and almost creamy. I think it would have benefited from cloves, which I discovered I do not own. The olive oil I used was also a little bit strong. The soup wasn’t bad; it was just lackluster. My dear GF agreed (she also gave me a quote, but I forgot what it was). I liked some spoonfuls, I didn’t like others. The worst thing is that we collectively spelled like garlic for hours after consumption.

So, my first foray into French cooking has been, I must admit, a little off-putting. While the soup as simple, a pretty large amount of effort went into making it—all that egg whisking. The soup was okay—not amazing. We’ll see how things turn out as the month progresses—I’m thinking coq au vin is on the way, maybe French onion soup, an exploration of salad dressings. If I’m feeling really adventurous, there will be soufflé, croissants, and crème brulee!

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