Is there any single food associated with warmth, healing, and comfort more frequently than chicken soup? Moms, old wives, and the majority of culinary cultures around the world agree: Whether you’re under the weather, battling the incoming winter chill, or simply feeling out of sorts, nothing else feels as restorative as a steaming bowl of the stuff.
During the latest cold snap, I decided to stray from the Campbell’s route and prepare Sopa de Ajo, a Basque version of chicken soup. While the Basque recipe traditionally calls for day-old-bread to give the soup some textural heft, I substituted it with potatoes to make the recipe a bit heartier and more crockpot-friendly.
This is the chicken soup of our collective childhood conscious on steroids. Aside from the fact that it’s perfumed with more than 40 cloves of garlic, pinches of saffron, cumin, cayenne, and paprika, it is topped with a poached egg, which, when pierced, leaks its golden yolk into the soup’s depths. It’s almost magical, and is virtually guaranteed to cure that cold of yours in no time at all.
- 2 heads of garlic (approximately 40 cloves)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika, plus more for garnish
- Pinch of saffron
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- 3 russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into small chunks
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 4 eggs, poached
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a small glass baking dish, place 30 unpeeled cloves of garlic. Drizzle over with 2 tablespoons olive oil and salt and pepper to taste, mixing to ensure that the garlic is evenly coated. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and roast the garlic for approximately 30 minutes, until it is soft and golden-hued.
While the garlic is roasting, peel and mince the remaining 10 cloves of garlic. Heat the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil in a medium saucepan; once hot, add the garlic and onion and sauté over medium heat for around 5 minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent and the garlic is fragrant (but not browned). Remove the saucepan from the heat.
Once the garlic has finished roasting, remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Gently unpeel the cloves and set aside (the peels should come off very easily). Discard the garlic peels.
In a crock pot, add the sautéed garlic and onion mixture, the roasted garlic, and all of the remaining ingredients, except for the eggs, and adding more salt and pepper to taste at this stage. Stir to ensure the ingredients are evenly combined. Cook in the crockpot on low heat for 6-8 hours, stirring very occasionally if possible, until the potatoes are falling apart. Break up any remaining large potato pieces with a wooden spoon or a fork.
When the soup has finished cooking, ladle into 4 bowls. Top each with a freshly poached egg and an extra pinch of paprika for color.
Total time: 9 hours