Henry IV, who was crowned King of France on this date in 1594, was baptized with garlic (and his lips were moistened with Jurançon wine) to protect him from disease, as well as from evil spirits. This precipitated a lifelong love affair with garlic and the king, nicknamed Le Roi d’Ail, supposedly ate so many cloves every day that he exuded garlic from every pore and his breath could “fell an ox at twenty paces.” Given his amorous proclivities (he had two wives and dozens of mistresses), one can only hope that the ladies of the court appreciated garlic’s alleged aphrodisiacal properties more than they deprecated its smell. Henriette d’Entragues, one of the king’s many female conquests, was said to spray him with perfume to keep the “smell of carrion” at bay.
It’s a miserable, blustery day; so toast France’s first Bourbon king with this garlic soup from his home region, the Pyrénées-Atlantiques. You could try a glass of semi-sweet Jurançon wine from Tablas Creek Vineyard, the first California winery to try it. Or go straight for a glass of bourbon — celebrate Maker’s Mark decision not to dilute their whiskey to meet demand. If you have a cold, look below for a recipe for Bourbon Cough Syrup for Grownups (aka a Hot Toddy). Muriel, this is for you!
Pyrenees Garlic Soup
2 T. olive oil
10 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
6 c. vegetable or light chicken stock
1½ t. ground Espelette pepper*
Sprig of thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
12 slices stale baguette, toasted in olive oil
Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the garlic and saute quickly until the garlic is golden. Do not allow to burn.
Add the stock, Espelette pepper, herbs and seasoning, bring to the boil and then allow to simmer, covered, for around 20 minutes. Remove the herbs.
Towards the end of the cooking time, poach the eggs in a separate pan and lightly brown the slices of bread in a little oil.
Place the bread in individual soup bowls, with a poached egg on top pour the soup over them.
* Espelette is a traditional mild Basque pepper; hot paprika is a good substitute
Bourbon Cough Syrup (for Grownups)
2 oz. bourbon whisky
1 t.lemon juice
4 ounces hot water
1 T. honey
Mix the bourbon, lemon juice, and water in a mug and heat in the microwave for about 45 seconds. Take out and add the honey. Whisk to combine, then microwave for another 45 seconds. Sleep well!