julia child, mastering the art of french cooking, julie powell, french cuisine

No Me Gusta


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“In any case, the soup was godawful.  I added some more water and carefully warmed it, and after that it was edible, even okay, but there is no question that it was far from the glory that I know Aïgo Bouïdo can be.” – Julie Powell

Freshly peeled garlic

Dinner last night was going to be a roast chicken that’s been hibernating in my freezer for the past few weeks, but by the time I finally got home from running errands and doing some grocery shopping, it was already after 9:00. (What can I say? When your shopping partner randomly announces, “We’re only going to speak in Spanish!”, a language you haven’t uttered since the previous decade, it tends to slow the shopping process a bit. Especially when you wind up saying things like, “Please tell the sister I’d like the fish with no hands” because you can’t remember the word for “woman” or “skin”. But I digress.) So I switched gears and opted for an easy soup, because it would only take a half-hour to cook and because it would thaw us out from our latest arctic blast. 

Look at all those beautiful herbs!

I chose the garlic soup Julia calls Aigo Bouido (hey, wasn’t that Danny Elfman’s band?) with crusty French bread. I’ll admit, I was a little leery, but Julia promises that by the time the soup has finished cooking, you can hardly recognize the garlic flavor. I quickly boiled an unpeeled separated head of garlic for about 30 seconds, then drained it in the sink and ran it under cold water. It was much easier to peel this way, and I dropped the peeled cloves into a pot with 2 quarts of water, olive oil and a collection of spices (parsley sprigs, bay leaf, cloves, thyme, salt & pepper). The pot boiled for a half-hour, and the ingredients were so aromatic, it filled our house with this wonderful herbal perfume. This soup had some promise after all! 

Straining the herb mixture into the eggs

When the timer went off, I beat 3 egg yolks in a separate large bowl until thick, then I drizzled in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Next, I slowly added a ladle full of soup to the egg mixture, beating it in as I poured, then strained the rest of the soup into the bowl (which I guess cooked the egg whites?). I mashed the liquid out of the herbs and garlic with a spoon and beat the entire mixture until it thickened a little and had turned a cream color. I spooned the soup into a bowl, topped it with a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan cheese, served it with a couple of hunks of French bread and sat down to eat. The bowls smelled amazing, and we couldn’t wait to taste this dish!

Dinner is served!

We each took a sip and looked at each other…and both asked the same question. How could something that smelled so incredible have absolutely no flavor? I added some salt to mine, but it didn’t help much. So then we added some crumbled Saltines to our bowls, and that seemed to give it a little boost. (I’m sure poor Julia was turning in her grave at the thought of us putting Saltines in anything, let alone her French garlic soup.) Even so, the brothy soup tasted a little too oily, and neither one of us could finish our serving. On the bright side, Julia was right – you couldn’t taste the garlic at all. You couldn’t taste anything at all. But don’t worry about us…we filled up on the bread.

The good news: this soup was really easy to make; the ingredients were things that I already had in the pantry; and it smelled incredible while it cooked.

The bad news: this soup was more like something you’d soak your feet in at a spa rather than something you’d have for dinner.

Final answer: If I were you, I’d pass. Well, I take that back…this soup would be great to make if you burned popcorn or had a plumbing problem and needed to cover up a foul smell (I’m telling you, it’s super aromatic). But then again, you could just light a candle and move on with your life.

I think tonight we’ll revisit that whole chicken idea…

Bon appetit!
– Jessica

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