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Basque Garlic Soup

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Basque Garlic Soup, or sopa de ajo, is a balm for a cold day.

It’s a piping hot bowl of garlicky, smoky broth, filled with tendrils of eggs and thickened with bread, heightened with a splash of sherry vinegar. This version, from writer and cookbook author Marti Buckley, calls for bread that’s very well-toasted—almost burnt—in olive oil to add body and roasted depth. The piquant broth is infused with an entire head of garlic. Best of all, it comes together in under an hour and tastes even better the day after it’s made.

Some recipes call for poached eggs to gently float in each bowl of soup, but scrambling infuses each bite with flavor and adds a beautiful texture to the broth. Stirring the beaten egg into the hot soup spreads those delicate wisps of egg throughout the and thickens it up, giving just enough bite. Paired with the smoky paprika, the soup almost tastes meaty.

With a short ingredient list, this seemingly simple soup is truly elevated by each addition. Use your favorite sherry vinegar for a clear, acidic note that isn’t ever harsh or bitter. A fruity, grassy olive oil will carry flavors of garlic into each spoonful of soup. The quality of the paprika and bread make all the difference in this dish, so open a fresh canister of true Pimentón de la Vera, and use the best baguette you can find.

Excerpted from Basque Country by Marti Buckley and re-published from Food & Wine.

Basque Garlic Soup

Author Marti Buckley

Ingredients

  • 4 oz high-quality baguette
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 garlic head (about 12 cloves), peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 heaping tbsp Pimentón de la Vera (smoked Spanish paprika)
  • 8 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 tbsp  sherry vinegar
  • 3 large eggs, beaten

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 450°F. Place baguette on a baking sheet, and toast in preheated oven until very browned and almost burnt, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool. Break or slice bread into 2-inch pieces.
  • Heat 7 tablespoons oil in a large pot over medium-high. Add bread pieces, and reduce heat to medium. Cook, turning often to allow bread to toast and soak up oil, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Remove bread, and set aside. Wipe pot clean.
  • Add garlic and remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pot. Cook over medium-high, stirring constantly, until garlic is golden brown, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Stir in paprika. Add broth and salt; bring to a boil.
  • Add bread to pot. Reduce heat to medium-low, and maintain a simmer. Add vinegar. Cook, stirring occasionally to break up bread, until flavors meld, about 25 minutes. Taste and add more salt, if needed.
  • When ready to serve, bring soup to a simmer over medium-high. Stirring constantly, slowly pour beaten eggs into hot soup. If any large pieces of bread remain, cut with kitchen scissors, or break apart with a spoon. Serve hot.
Soup can be prepared through step 4 up to 2 days in advance. Bring to a simmer, and add beaten eggs just before serving.
Suggested pairing: Lightly sparkling, appley Txakoli.
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Recipe by Marti Buckley.