You might expect this garlic soup recipe to be from the south of France where cooking with garlic is more common, but this delicious easy soup recipe comes from Arleux, which is in the north of France. In general the French are cautious with using garlic in recipes, not wanting its strong taste to overwhelm other flavors, but here the garlic is allowed to define the dish.
The city of Arleux in the very north of France is well known for producing quality garlic. Much of the garlic that is grown here is braided together and then hung in small rooms where it is smoked for ten days over a slow burning peat fire. The smoking preserves the garlic, allowing it to be stored for up to a year, and also gives the exterior a distinctive brownish color. (Photo by Rowena of Rubber Slippers in Italy.)
In the first part of September, the people of Arleux celebrate the garlic harvest with a festival and everywhere in the streets you will see bouquets and braids of garlic. This garlic soup recipe is typical of what the people might eat during the festival and throughout the rest of the year.
There's no getting around it. This garlic soup recipe has a strong flavor and it does tend to take hold in the body for a while. So better to eat this with your beloved -- that way you can smell garlicky together. Also, most people find that although it is delicious, facing this soup in leftovers the next day can be a bit daunting. So best to make what you can finish in one sitting.
With its substantial topping you can serve this easy soup as a main course, although I'd recommend a first course of a salad or perhaps something even heavier for hearty appetites.
You don't have to use smoked garlic from Arleux to make this garlic soup recipe, but do make sure that you use excellent quality garlic. Look for heads of garlic that have large cloves (that will save you considerable time in preparing the garlic). The cloves should be firm, not soft or shriveled up.
1 cup shredded Gruyere or Emmental cheese (or substitute Swiss cheese)
salt and pepper
In a large pot, heat two tablespoons of the olive oil on medium heat and add the leeks and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally for five minutes. Add the carrots and potatoes and cook for five more minutes.
Add the two quarts of water and the bouillon cube and bring soup to a simmer. Partially cover with a lid and cook for about an hour.
Just before serving, place the French bread cubes on a non-stick tray. Cover the bread with shredded cheese and drizzle the remaining tablespoon of olive oil on top (you can use more olive oil if you wish). Bake at 400° F for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender, and working in small portions, puree the soup with the cream and butter until it is smooth. Return to soup pot and heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To serve distribute the cheese topped croutons into soup bowls and ladle the soup on top.