by Chrysa Smith

A tinny Edit Piaf playing in the background, a loaf of crusty French bread, perhaps a glass of Bordeaux and voila! It’s almost like being in……..Paris.

OK, it was actually Philadelphia, but one needn’t have a transatlantic flight and digital photos of the Eiffel Tower to feel the comfort of French peasant food. The restaurant was Caribou Cafe; an eclectic bistro on Walnut Street in Philadelphia. Tiny cafe tables, a long, dark bar with electrified torches held by striking French women and a menu full of comforting, simple food like Croques Monsieur (something I’ve wanted to make since Alec Baldwin boasted about Meryl Streep’s wonderful rendition in the movie It’s Complicated). If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s grilled ham and cheese; the French way.

I had a crab, spinach version of Eggs Benedict; my husband, a burger and fries (can’t take the American out of him), and it was all very good. But what was lasting was the little brochure of French recipes I picked up from the table, in the back, in the corner, in the dark.

Celebrate Every Day the French Way is a publication from the French Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. I opened it up and immediately planned to make the first recipe for dinner the next night: Provencal Garlic Soup or tourin d’ail doux. Absolutely delicious.

6-7 slices white bread
5-6 whole heads garlic
34 oz. chicken stock
9 oz. heavy cream
1 oz butter
salt & pepper
cold water

  1. Separate and peel garlic cloves (yes, it’s a bit time consuming, but you can do it while watching tv)
  2. Blanch the garlic cloves by covering them with equal parts of milk and cold water and simmering them. (use just a little milk and water)
  3. Drain the cloves and repeat this simmering process two more times, adding fresh milk and water each time. This softens the flavor of the garlic.
  4. Combine the garlic and chicken stock in a saucepan and bring to a simer for 10 mins. or until the garlic softens
  5. Put the bread and heavy cream into the hot soup and simmer.
  6. Puree the soup in a food processor. Swirl in the butter and season with salt and pepper.
  7. Serve in warm bowls and garnish with chervil (optional)

I’d say it serves 5-6….can’t wait to have it again tomorrow.

If you want to do a complete and total French theme, pull out the checkered tablecloth, click on the video below, light the candles. Bon Appetit.