Chef Susan Spicer’s Cream of Garlic Soup

I’ve been a fan of Susan Spicer since she first earned accolades in New Orleans with her restaurant, Bayona, in the early 1990’s.  Did I eat there?  No.  I worked at the Cajundome in Lafayette, Louisiana, for the in-house caterer at the time.  The owner of the catering business, Mr. Joe, was also the creator of the first hot food chef’s competion in the southern region, the Acadiana Culinary Classic.  He was able to bring Chef Spicer to the Classic as a judge one year.  He spoke so highly of her, and was so excited to have her there, that I was instantly impressed and ever since then, have wanted to go to Bayona’s and try her food. To this day, some 20 years later, that still has not happened.  However, she has recently opened a second restaurant, Mondo, in the Lakeview area of New Orleans, which caters more to families and the people who live in the neighborhood rather than to the high-dollar French Quarter.  I have eaten there for lunch, and it is faboulous.

However, it is only at Bayona’s that you will be served her Cream of Garlic Soup, which fortunately has been printed in several publications, The Times Picayune and also in Food and Wine magazine.  I first stumbled upon this in the local paper, The Times Picayune, searching for a Garlic Soup after listening to my sister go on about a Garlic Soup she had just made.  Apparently, the soup keeps some of the locals coming back.

From Food and Wine magazine, contributed by Chef Spicer.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 2 pounds onions, about 4, chopped

  • 2 cups garlic cloves, about 4 large heads, chopped

  • 2 quarts Chicken Stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth

  • 1/2 loaf day-old French bread (about 1/4 pound), cut into chunks

  • 1 bouquet garni: 6 parsley stems, 9 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried, and 1 bay leaf

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

  • 2 cups half-and-half

  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

  • Croutons, optional

  • In a large pot, heat the oil and butter over low heat. Add the onions and garlic. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft and beginning to turn golden, about 30 minutes.

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  • Raise the heat to moderate and continue cooking the onions and garlic, uncovered, stirring frequently, until deep golden, about 10 minutes longer.  I cooked mine on a medium-low temp, and it actually took about 1 1/2 hours to get the color of caramelization below.  I’d check on it, and stir it, about every 5 to 10 minutes; more frequently at the end as I was worried about it scorching.

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  • Add the stock, bouquet garni, and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer about 15 minutes.

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  • Add the bread, and let dissolve in the soup for a few minutes.

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  • Remove the bouquet garni and puree the soup in a blender or food processor, or with an immersion blender.  Strain the soup back into the pot. Add the half-and-half and pepper and bring back to a boil. Serve topped with the croutons, if you like.

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My take on it:

It’s hard to follow a recipe exactly, especially when you don’t want to go back to the store.  Here are the quantities I used, following the method above.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 4 cups slivered yellow onions (I used about a half of a red onion, just to use it up)

  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh garlic

  • 1/4 cup roasted garlic (rescued from the freezer, just use more fresh garlic; Chef Spicer calls for 2 cups of garlic)

  • 1 quart homemade stock

  • 6 cups water

  • 1 tablespoon chicken stock paste

  • 1 bouquet garni (I used parsley, thyme, and 1 bay leaf at the end)

  • 1 cup heavy cream

  • an 8-10 inch piece of New Orleans French Bread

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper

I forgot to add the bay leaf while cooking, so, I added it at the end after pureeing.  I simply let the pot sit on a warm burner, not even simmering, for about 20 minutes to soak the bay leaf.   The bay leaf was a special gift from a cousin’s very young bay tree last Thanksgiving.  Fresh bay leaves are really fragrant and wonderful.  The 20 minute soaking in the soup really added a lot to the perfume and taste of the soup.  Don’t skip it!

I thought the soup was amazing.  My husband and friend thought it was good, but belonged over a piece of chicken.  My friend also thought it was too thin for her taste.  If you like a thicker consistency soup, you could always add 1/4 to a 1/2 cup flour to the cooked onions, mixing well, before adding the stock to the pot.  You could also use one medium diced Idaho potato to the stock.

I liked it just the way it was.  The lighter chicken stock really let the caramelized flavors of the onion and garlic shine through.

I’m so glad I finally tried this.  It’s an amazingly rich in taste, yet light, soup.  Perfect for this winter flu season!

Buen Provecho!

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6 thoughts on “Chef Susan Spicer’s Cream of Garlic Soup

  1. Well, the bread is soaking in the soup and I will blend it all together soon. It has made the kitchen smell lovely all afternoon because I have dragged it out and really caramelzed the onions and garlic. I’ve let it simmer a little longer than the recip calls for. But it will be ready soon. I’ll let you know what I think.

  2. It was magnificent. I used 1 qt of store-bought stock and 2 cups of water plus the 2 cups half and half and mine had good body to it, not thin at all. Thanks for sharing this. I will definitely make it again.

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