Despite its humble beginnings as poor man cooking, garlic soup has grown to represent Castilian cooking. Garlic soup is a dish that allows infinite variations to reflect the personal taste of every chef: You can enrich the basic soup with Serrano ham, chorizo or both, serve it with or without poached eggs, use the smoky gourmet paprika or the plain sweet one. A simple soup that is forever different.
- Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over low heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until it starts taking color but not fully brown, 3-4 minutes. Add the bread and cook 3-4 minutes more, stirring to coat the bread in oil.
- Remove the pan from the heat to sprinkle paprika over the bread and toss to coat evenly. Return to the heat, add the stock, heat up until it simmers; cook for 5-10 minutes, until the bread is swollen but still whole.
- Season the soup and ladle to four individual earthenware bowls, break an egg on each of them and bake in a very hot oven for 5 minutes. The egg white should be thick and opaque, the yolk still liquid and the soup thick and nicely toasted.
Though baking the eggs is the custom, more modern cooks have other ways around. The eggs can be poached directly into the soup, with no oven time; just crack each one and add it to the soup and keep the heat on until the eggs are poached to your taste. The eggs could be poached in advance and added to the soup the last minute to warm. Serve in warmed bowls. Or you could do a quick poaching by ladling the hot soup into an individual bowl, breaking an egg into it and microwaving for 1¼ minutes.
If you don’t have the traditional earthenware pans Spanish are so fond of, you could use heat resistant ceramic bowls, crocks or soup bowl size ramekins.
If you like the taste but don’t relish finding garlic bits in your soup, fry the garlic until it has taken a little more color and remove it. Add the bread and follow the recipe at that point.
You can enrich the soup with Serrano ham. Add 4 oz Serrano ham, finely diced, at the same time you add the garlic. If you don’t have it, prosciutto is a good substitution.
Chorizo, the paprika red Spanish sausage, becomes another way to enrich your soup. Fry 4 oz chorizo, peeled and finely sliced with the garlic. Because chorizo already adds paprika, you need to add less of it afterwards.
You could add both, Serrano ham and chorizo.
Once ready, top it with your favorite cheese and melt it under the grill.
If you don't have chicken broth to use as a base, it comes out very good using veal or beef stock as a base. If you crave the flavor and don't have any broth, just use water; you'll miss some minerals from the broth, but considering garlic, oil bread and egg, you are still getting plenty.