This started out as Jim's soup.
He found it in The Gourmet Cook
several months ago and, as he told me later, "I just had to make it because it sounded so weird!"
That may not sound like the highest recommendation, but trust me: this is a fine, fine meal. (Or first course.) It's quite light and brothy, despite its complex and deeply satisfying flavor. Excellent for lunch, or, heck, breakfast, a light dinner, or when you've gotten home from an evening out and want something quick/delicious/relatively healthy before bed.
It takes about 20 minutes start to finish, including about 8 minutes of barely-attended cooking that gives you plenty of time to whip up some fresh guacamole to have with chips alongside. And as if that weren't enough, it's made from ingredients you probably have on hand right now.
According to the cookbook, this soup is hugely popular in cafes all over Mexico. I can definitely see why.
Sopa de Ajo
3 Tbsp olive oil
8 to 10 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
4 large bias-cut baguette slices (what the original recipe called for) or 2 slices of good sourdough sandwich bread, halved (which is what we had)
4 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
1/2 tsp red chile flakes
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
In a large, fairly shallow skillet (you know, standard skillet depth… 3 inches or so), heat the olive oil over low heat; really, you want it pretty darn low, close to as low as your stove will go. When it becomes fragrant, add the garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is a pale golden color, about 8 to 10 minutes. You may become impatient during this time, as it will smell terrific. Just keep the heat low and stir every once in a while. Once the garlic is done (but not browned!), scoop it out with a slotted spoon and reserve it.
Increase the heat under the skillet to medium and let it heat a minute or so. Add the bread; you may need to do a little finagling to get the pieces to fit. Mind you don't burn your fingers. Cook until it's toasted, about 4 minutes or so, then flip and cook for just a minute or two on the other side. The bread will soak up quite a bit of the oil while the first side is being toasted, so be careful you don't scorch the second side. Remove the slices of bread with tons and place each, toasted-er side up, in a soup plate.
Add the stock, the chile flakes and the reserved garlic to the skillet and bring to a simmer. Crack one egg into a cup and slide it carefully into the simmering liquid. Repeat with remaining three eggs. Cook for about 3 to 4 minutes for a true poached egg with a runny yolk, or if you are feeding someone who won't eat runny yolk,* puncture the yolks with a knife as soon as they enter the liquid and allow to cook 6 to 8 minutes in total.
For each serving, use a slotted spoon to scoop up one egg and lay it over a slice of toast. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Ladle in hot stock to fill the bowl. Garnish with cilantro and serve.
* Such as, for example, my husband, which is why the egg in the photo above looks decidedly firm and a bit pallid compared to the lovely golden liquidy yolks the rest of us enjoyed. Poor sweetie.