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Monday, 9 April 2012

Artichoke and roasted garlic soup with garlic chips

  In the words of Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith"I love it when a plan comes together!"  As a kid I was heavily influenced by the George Peppard character from the A-Team.  He was everything I aspired to be: a brilliant tactician, unflappable in the face of danger, a leader of men, a master of disguise, altruistic, witty, a soldier of fortune, a fugitive from military justice and a close personal friend of Mr. T.  While the man I grew up to be may not quite measure up to Hannibal's standards (I never entered the military, am only a fugitive from the fashion police and the closest I've come to befriending Mr. T was to get his autograph at a jewelry store), occasionally my kitchen plans do come together nicely.

This soup is the result of two long standing projects: number one, to master the making of Thomas Keller's garlic chips and number two, to recreate an amazing artichoke soup I had while on a business trip.  While making batches of garlic chips it struck me as criminal to throw out the rich garlic-infused milk but without a ready use, I either dumped it out or let it go bad in the fridge and then dumped it out.  Simultaneously, I had been looking for a way to add depth and interest to my version of artichoke soup.  Then in a flash of inspired brilliance much akin to what Einstein must have felt when he perfected soup recipes, I decided to combine them.  The milk would become the creamy base to the soup and the chips would become the garnish.

4 large artichokes
2 heads of garlic (1 for roasting, 1 for chips)
2 white potatoes, peeled
1 leek, chopped
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups milk
2 cups canola oil
1/2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp vinegar

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the vinegar and artichokes.  Test them by using tongs to pick up a choke by a single leaf.  They're done when the leaf pulls off simply from the weight of the choke.  Drain the artichokes and leave to cool.  Once cool, remove the leaves and chokes from the hearts and set them aside.  Reserve some of the leaves to serve as an appetiser (eat the rest in the kitchen without telling anyone).
To make the chips, slice the garlic cloves very thinly using a sharp knife or mandolin.  Cover them in 1/2 a cup of milk and bring to a simmer.  Drain and reserve the milk for the soup.  Rinse the garlic and repeat 3 more times until you've used all the milk.  Pat the garlic slices dry and fry in small batches in hot oil, leaving them to dry on paper towels.  You want to take them out before they go brown to prevent them from becoming bitter.  I use elephant garlic because it's milder in flavour and makes bigger chips but you can use any garlic.  If you do use elephant garlic then one clove will be more than sufficient as they're almost the size of cooking onions as seen at right.

To roast the garlic, cut 1cm off the top of the head, drizzle with oil and wrap in foil.  Roast the garlic at 300F until soft.

In a soup pot, saute the leeks in the butter until soft. Add the artichoke hearts, potatoes, roasted garlic and chicken stock and simmer until the potatoes are soft.  Blend the soup and add the garlic milk.  Return to simmer for 10 minutes to let the flavours combine.

Serve, garnished with garlic chips.

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