It may come as a surprise to some that a lot of artists like to cook, but it shouldn’t. Be they painter, writer, instrument maker, sculptor, or musician, many of them not only cook, but cook well. Cooking, good cooking, is done with heart and soul, as much or more than it is with hands and brains – This is natural to artists, who are driven to express themselves, often in more than one vein. Guitarist Extraordinaire Ken Bonfield is one of these. As with a number of other fine folk, I met Ken through Facebook; over the years of interacting there, we’ve gotten to know each other fairly well. I think we were introduced because he plays guitars and I build them; over time, I’ve become aware that he has a genuine passion for food, and that he express that dang near as well as he plays a harp guitar.
If you’re a fan of great music, inspired playing, and what may be a somewhat unusual instrument to many, you simply need to become familiar with Ken’s music. He’s been playing all around this country for over two decades, at festivals, concert series, and on seven albums of his own. He composes and plays with great passion, love, and expression. He is technically brilliant as a player, truly as gifted as one can be; in an age where fingers style playing has become a predictable warren of percussive and flashy tricks, everything I’ve heard Ken play has clearly been marinating in heart, passion, and deep thought before it’s been sounded. I would argue that he’s one of the absolute best harp guitar players I’ve ever heard, on par with Muriel Anderson, with whom he just so happens to be playing this weekend in his home town of Gloucester, Massachusetts. I love that he pays tribute to cool instruments like the harp and baritone guitars with much of his music; its just a bit more outside the box and above the average picker. He calls these his “chamber ensemble” of instruments, mostly made by Master Luthier Al Caruth. If you’re a player and want to improve, know that Ken also teaches quite often, through an ongoing series of workshops and master classes.
As I mentioned, the guy can also cook! Recently, he posted this cool little trick for peeling fresh garlic. That lead to his posting of his deservedly legendary 132 Clove Garlic Soup, which, with Ken’s blessing, I’m reposting here.
Note on the peeling trick – it does indeed work quite nicely, but know that it also bruises the garlic to a notable degree, so only shake what you’re going to use fairly quickly.
Ken’s 132-Clove Garlic Soup with Parmesan Cheese, (Adapted from Bon Appetit’s 1999 44-clove garlic soup)
78 garlic cloves (unpeeled)
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
4 1/2 cups sliced onions
3 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
54 garlic cloves, peeled
8 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)
8 lemon wedges
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place 78 garlic cloves in a glass baking dish. Add 4 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat.
Cover baking dish tightly with foil and bake until garlic is golden brown and tender, about 45 minutes. Cool. Squeeze garlic between fingertips to release cloves. Transfer cloves to small bowl.
Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat.
Add onions and thyme and cook until onions are translucent, about 6 minutes.
Add roasted garlic and 54 peeled raw garlic cloves and cook 3 minutes.
Add chicken stock; cover and simmer until garlic is very tender, about 20 minutes.
Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth.
Return soup to saucepan; add cream and bring to simmer.
Season with salt and pepper.
Divide grated cheese among bowls and ladle soup over.
Squeeze juice of 1 lemon wedge into each bowl and serve.
(Serve with some Ken Bonfield acoustic joy.)