“Provençal cooking is based on garlic. The air in Provence is impregnated with the aroma of garlic, which makes it very healthful to breathe. Garlic is the main seasoning in bouillabaisse and in the principal sauces of the region. A sort of mayonnaise is made with it by crushing it in oil, and this is eaten with fish and snails. The lower classes in Provence often lunch on a crust of bread sprinkled with oil and rubbed with garlic.”
Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) ‘Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine’
The importance of Alice Waters and Chez Panisse cannot be overstated.
Miss Alice is arguably the root cause of our obsession with farm to table in American cuisine. As a young culinarian in the 90’s, there were just a handful of farmers you’d get to know at the Charleston Farmer’s Market regularly- Joseph Fields, Celeste Albers, Dan Kennerty.
How things have changed! While many or most of those farms are thankfully still with us, now we’re blessed to have our good friends at Growfood Carolina, our local grass roots food distribution hub, on our side. The farmers bring it to them, they bring it to us with real time updates as to what’s in season within 100 miles of South Carolina’s Lowcountry.
And right now, that’s green garlic.
Chez Panisse Green Garlic Soup
Green garlic is the whole plant, harvested in the spring before the individual cloves have formed- its sweet umami is a game changer.
Credit: Chez Panisse Cooking, by Paul Bertolli w/ Alice Waters, 1998 Random House
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 24 young garlic plants, 1/2″ in diameter at the root end, white part only
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 pound, 6 ounces small red potatoes, peeled and quartered
- 1 1/2 quarts light chicken broth
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Sourdough bread
- Melt the butter in a 6 quart non-corroding pot. Add the garlic and 1/4 cup of the water. Bring to a simmer, cover tightly and cook for 15 minutes.
- Add the potatoes and remaining 1/2 cup water and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the chicken broth, cover the pot and allow to bubble gently for 20 minutes.
- Puree the soup in batches for 2 minutes. Pass the soup through a medium fine sieve into a bowl. Stir in the cream and salt. Add the vinegar 1 teaspoon at a time, tasting the soup after each addition before you add the next. (Some vinegars are more acidic and strongly flavored than others.)
- Reheat the soup gently and serve it in warm bowls. Grind black pepper generously over each portion and serve with grilled slices of sourdough bread that have been brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with chopped fresh thyme or small croutons tossed in butter and baked until very crisp.