Oh God. What’s-urgh- happening? Oh no. Oh crap. This is…not great. Hey, ummm, so. This is Kitchen Catastrophes, and I’m your Hung-over host, Jon O’Guin. Sorry about the mess, it’s aaaaaaa… yeah.
Look, I’m gonna level with you, this year my birthday fell on Oktoberfest, so I held off a week on the party…to another day of Oktoberfest (It’s 3 damn weeks! What I am supposed to do, celebrate on a Tuesday?!) And today is the day AFTER the party. And as my litany of liquor-based achievements last week attests, I tend not to…hold up…*Breathes deeply for a minute, staring fixedly at the carpet*
Ok, I’m good. As the list attests, I tend not to play it cool when it comes to drinking. Which is why, I have to admit, I’m not actually hung-over right now. Because I’m not writing the morning after a party in the couple hours I have between waking up and going to work, that’s a bad idea. No, instead, I’m writing the day BEFORE the party, in a rare display of forethought and planning from me. So why commit so hard to the hang-over bit? Two reasons: One, I find it funny. Two, today’s recipe is supposedly something of a hangover cure. And, realizing that I had just written my alcohol guide Thursday, I felt it a fun part of the conversation to emphasize. Because other than some broad cultural trends and a bit of food-celebrity fan-boying, this recipe is so simple and quick there’s not much to talk about. So let’s get started.
Para Bailar La Bamba
Quick aside before we really get into the (again, fairly direct and brief) history of the dish: I have a problem remembering which things I’ve written for the site, and which I wrote for Facebook in the preceding years. As such, it’s hard for me to remember exactly how often I bring up my adoration/fascination for aspects of Spanish culture and the Spanish language. Things like the word “huevón”, meaning, if you directly translate it “Big-balled”. Except it’s not a compliment. It’s an insult for (depending on the region) a lazy or stupid person. They’re so lazy/dumb they drag their balls on the ground.
I picked this up when I studied Spanish for 5 years back in Middle School and High School. It doesn’t come up very often, though, as the title suggests, someone did recently use it to ask me what the words to “La Bamba” were. Which, if you don’t know, are simply fantastic when translated to English:
In order to dance the Bamba,
In order to dance the Bamba, you will need a little grace.
A little grace, for me, and you, come on, come on.
Come on, Come On
For you, I will. For you, I will. For you, I will.
The only other words in the song are: “I am not a sailor. I am not a sailor, I am the Captain. I am the Captain, I am the Captain.” And then just mixtures of words and phrases found in the chorus, mostly just the word “Bamba”.
Maybe he's just craving the smooth taste of Israel's favorite peanut--butter Cheeto!
Is that the weirdest sentence I've ever typed? It FELT aggressively weird.
Seriously, in English, the song sounds like a 50’s robot having a snack-critical error in front of an uncaring mariachi band. This is I always recommend people learn another language, to be able to learn the funny shit that goes on in that culture.
All that aside, Sopa De Ajo is one of a class of soups known as “Fin De Mes” soups. Translated, they mean “End of the Month” soups because, by the end of the month, you’re running out of money. Seriously. That’s the origin. The soups are based around a lot of cheap ingredients you’d probably have lying around at the end of the month, or can get pretty cheaply if you don’t. This soup’s ingredient list SOUNDS like a generic Spanish shopping list: eggs, chicken broth, garlic, paprika, olive oil, a little ham, and bread.
If you have literally NONE of the ingredients, this is like, $20 to feed 4 people. If you already have paprika and olive oil, that plummets to $11. And that’s the strength of this recipe: it’s cheap, it’s easy, and it’s quite good. If you’re looking for some warm meals for the growing autumn chill and coming winter, this soup is a winner. So, let’s briefly talk about a celebrity chef who helped bring it to my attention, before we get to making it.
No Way, José
We’ll be pretty quick here, since José Andrés doesn’t have a TON to do with this recipe, I just think he’s a cool guy to look into if you have some time. Chef Andrés is credited by some for bringing the Tapas tradition of Spain to high-end American restaurants. He has a bunch of restaurants, and is known for being a “big” chef, in the sense that chefs tend to fall on one of two sides: calm professionals with relatively level voices and a subtle intensity, or big booming forces of nature, passionate and active. José is the latter.
He may also be a ham-club-wielding caveman. It's hard to know for sure.
As I’ve said a couple times, when you’re dealing with the world of high-profile chefs, you end up having a lot of times where a name will be dropped, and the conversation will move on. Names like Marcus Samuelsson, Yottam Ottolenghi, José Andrés, you hear them in connection with some new restaurant, or a specific style or dish, but if you don’t research them, you don’t learn more.
For instance, despite being a mild fan of Chef Andrés, it was only when looking up his name to make sure I was getting the accents right that I learned he’s currently in Puerto Rico, cooking for the people, and his non-profit organization has just hit 100,000 meals served in the Maria Relief Effort. He believes soon he’ll be able to produce 50,000 meals a day, to help the island recover as it tends to its devastated agriculture and production centers.
That’s pretty damn rad for a guy I most strongly associated with Fried Egg Tacos until yesterday. (The Egg IS the Taco, not IN the Taco.)
But yeah, he made an appearance in a show my family idly watches after dinner, where he was big, energetic, and fun, and then a month ago he was in Saveur with Diego Luna of Rogue One, doing a culinary tour of Spain. In the article, they mention him making sopa de ajo, but they didn’t provide a recipe, so I ended up digging a little and finding this one. So enough about shows, let’s talk SOUP.
Things that Make you Go “Huh?”
Every person I that I told about this soup reacted to the same ingredient the same way: When I told them there was bread IN the soup, they cocked their head to the side, narrowed their eyes slightly, and said something to the effect of “Oh/Huh/wha?” So, OKAY, not the EXACT same way, but within functional limits.
But yes, this soup includes, in the soup itself, bread. Specifically, toasted bread. And it’s important to talk about because it’s the longest part of the whole process. Because it’s supposed to be diced up and toasted before going in. And dicing six cups of French bread can be a little bit of a pain if you don’t take the right steps. I openly recommend you use day-old bread for this, and maybe invest some time learning what French bread cuts best for you. I ended up compacting three slices into nothing because the crust firmness to crumb stability ratio in my loaf was weird.
And yes, I will definitely blame the bread for that, and not my Lenny-like ability to break everything I touch with my clumsy, meaty paws.
While you’re cutting, preheat the oven to 350. Or, be like me, literally forget the recipe, and assume it said 400. In my defense, this was another Food Wishes recipe, because the cayenne-centered cuisine of Chef Jon is slowly infiltrating my brain, and therefore the recipe was only available in video form, and it’s hard to restart a video on a computer in another room while cutting bread. What’s that? Use my phone? Yes, thank you. I thought of that later, after it was no longer helpful. JUST LIKE YOUR SUGGESTION.
The cubed bread goes onto a baking sheet, and gets tossed in some olive oil. I’d say about a quarter of a cup, but just do what feels right. Then it goes into your oven, and bakes for 15 minutes. If you’re using the Jon O’Guin method of ‘oh shit, that’s the wrong temp!” bake at 400 for 5 minutes, learn your mistake, and drop it to 300 for the next 10. While that mess is unfolding, let’s do the SECOND most tedious part of the soup prep!
Now, I want my following statement to have context: I love garlic. It’s one of my favorite flavoring aliums, to the point where something like 85% of all savory recipes I make receive a sprinkle or two of garlic powder just to be safe. That said, thinly slicing 7-10 cloves of garlic is…not exactly fun. But that’s a loving relationship: sometimes, you gotta do what your partner needs, even if it’s not your cup of tea. So 10 minutes of fairly thin slices gets you this pile of potency.
These are like the tiny ninja stars in my endless war against Count Dracula.
The next steps are where the soup gets complicated, so please pay very close attention: Put ¼ cup olive oil in the pot, add the garlic, and bring to medium high heat. Once the garlic is just a little browned, lower the heat to medium or medium low, and add some diced or thinly sliced ham. From this point on, every step will be “now throw something else in the pot.” Chef John suggests if you can get Spanish ham to use it, because it’s great. As a man who has eaten straight slices of jamón iberico several times, he’s not wrong, but as a guy unwilling to spend $5 per ounce of sliced ham for a cheap soup when I’m broke, I just bought a small $3 ham steak and sliced it thin myself. (If you want a gussied-up version, this would be a good place to pump up some class.)
So it goes Garlic, Ham, 1.5 tsps of paprika (preferably smoked, but use what you have). Each new addition gets tossed around and blooms in the oil for about a minute. Then comes the bread. Hopefully you took it out/it’s done by now, because it’s gotta get its oil on, yo. Take the crisp and toasted bread cubes, throw them in the pot, and toss them to coat with the oil. Once they look good, or you’re getting panicky that the bottom may be drying out and burning, add chicken stock. The recipe calls for around 6 cups, but I basically used a quart with a splash or two from a second quart. Hit it with some seasoning now, like Salt, pepper, cayenne and garlic powder. Raise the heat to high, and get this sucker to a boil!
Sometimes, I take pictures of the food I'm cooking, and later, I ask myself, "What the fuck do you think this image tells anyone?"
Once it’s hot and bubbling, you have a choice: you can eat this, here and now. Or you can add some chopped parsley, stir it in, and eat it. OR, you can go for that extra touch of power and beauty: See, 2 oz of ham isn’t a ton of protein for 4 servings of soup. So what many do with the recipe is poach eggs in the soup before serving. So that’s what I did. I made 4 little divots, and poured eggs into them. Lower the heat to medium for this portion, so the bubbling doesn’t shatter the eggs, and also so you don’t end up like me and lower it to low and spend 10 minutes waiting for eggs to poach, only for them to have overcooked.
To serve, get a ladle, and, if you have room, get a scoop or two into the bowl from around the eggs. Then, grab a scoop with the egg on top, and put it in the bowl. If you’re having trouble, you can also start by scooping an egg, and placing that scoop to the side. Anyway, ladle up your bowls, top with a little more parsley, ham, and whatever seasonings work for you, and the meal is ready!
I'm not saying I don't LIKE applesauce, I'm saying this is the weirdest bowl of it I've ever been served.
It’s a thick, warm soup that heats you up from your core. I was a big fan of it. Everyone else certainly liked it. So, as the air gets nippy and autumn settles on us ever-heavier, fight that chill with a bowl of soup straight from Spain. So simple that even I can’t screw it up. (Except for overcooking the egg. It’s supposedly really great with the egg yolk stirred around.)
As the seasons get colder, we must all huddle together for warmth. Be sure to share this recipe with your friends to protect them from the chill of oncoming winter, like our Facebook page for more weapons against winter, and consider stoking the coals of Kitchen Catastrophes by supporting us through Patreon! Just think, with as little as a dollar a month, you could keep Jon in soup ingredients year-round!
THURSDAY: SHIT. I KNOW I HAD A PLAN. I CAME UP WITH IT LIKE, THREE DAYS AGO. BUT NOW I DON’T REMEMBER. YOU KNOW WHAT? CHILI POWDERS. WE’RE TALKING THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN CAYENNE, PAPRIKA, AND CHILI POWDER. THAT SHOULD WORK. DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M GONNA DO FOR PICTURES, THOUGH.
SOPA DE AJO
6 cups diced French bread or other firm white bread. (Diced roughly 1/2" thick.)
1/2 c olive oil, divided
7-10 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 oz ham, diced or thinly sliced
1.5 tsp paprika
5 c chicken broth
1/4 c chopped Italian Parsley (optional)
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Scatter bread onto a rimmed baking sheet, and toss with 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Place in the oven and bake 15 minutes to toast.
2. Pour remaining olive oil into a medium sized pot or dutch oven. Add sliced garlic, set the burner to medium-high heat, and cook until beginning to brown. Add ham, reducing heat to medium and cook 1-2 minutes. Add paprika, and stir, allowing to bloom for 1 minute. Add toasted bread and toss in flavored oil until fairly evenly distributed.
3. Add chicken broth, set heat to high, and bring to a boil. If using, stir in the parsley, reducing the heat to medium. Crack the eggs and float them in the top of the soup, poaching until whites are set. Serve hot, ensuring each bowl has an egg.