Garlic! I love it. I love it because it adds a rich, deep, savory, gnashable quality to food. Umami would be a more graceful way to describe this, if you’re not into gnashing.
The thing about garlic is, it can be a little tricky to cook with. I often opt for garlic powder instead, mostly because I have a track record of burning fresh garlic. If your oil’s too hot or you cook it just a little too long, garlic can go from sublime to acrid in seconds. I know this because I’ve ruined many an innocent dish with burnt garlic, and in a combination of denial and not wanting to waste ingredients, went ahead and served/ate some of them anyway. Don’t ever do that, unless you’re on the brink of starvation. Burnt garlic tastes like charcoal, only meaner. I have tasted charcoal.
But good news – there’s an easier way. If you want to use real garlic and you want to be certain it’ll come out all mellow and umami and divine, just roast it in the oven. This is pretty much foolproof unless you leave it in the oven too long (which I have done), and you can do a whole lot at one time. Keep it in a jar in the fridge, and you can use it all week as you need it. And let’s be honest: opening a jar is a lot quicker and easier than messing with fresh garlic cloves every time you cook. Sorry, garlic: you’re kind of a pain in the ass. You’re strangely adhesive, and those tiny, fragile skins are persistent to say the least. However, you are cute, and you taste amazing.
So here’s how to roast a bunch of garlic:
1. Get a bunch of garlic. I got a big bag of garlic heads, like a pound and a quarter, for a few bucks the last time I was at the store. Also, have a muffin tin, some olive oil and some foil.
Heat the oven to 400°. Take off some of the outer layers of garlic skin. Leave just enough on there so the garlic head stays intact. Cut the very top and bottom off the garlic head, so the little cloves inside are exposed. You’ll be taking off maybe 1/2″. If your knife isn’t reasonably sharp, you’re gonna have a bad time. Repeat with as many heads as you want to roast/have muffin tins for. Set those little tops you cut off aside; we’ll do something with them later.
2. Place a garlic head in each tin and drizzle on about a teaspoon of olive oil. Use your fingers to give them a good massage; make sure they’re well-coated with oil. You can see mine peeking out of the tin, glistening a little there. If you want to put some pepper or other seasonings on them, go ahead.
3. Put little foil hats on the garlic. Nice and loose, just gently covering them. Slip them into the oven for about 30-33 minutes.
4. Take them out and remove their little hats. Hey presto! There’s a bunch of roasted garlic for you. They’ll be soft, smell luscious and savory, and have little roasty-brown edges. Let them cool enough to handle, then loosen their outer skins a bit and squeeze the roasted cloves into a bowl. Literally squeeze them out. Most of the cloves should be pretty cooperative. Use a knife to give the shy ones a hand.
Violà. Er, voilà. Now you have roasted garlic to do anything you want with. For me, that includes eating at least half of it like a crazed garlic addict right out of the oven.
Hey, remember those little tops we cut off? There’s plenty of decent garlic in there, and it’s a shame to waste it. Pop that garlic right out of the top scraps and save it in something airtight. The last time I roasted garlic, I used the leftover top pieces to season a whole batch of tomato sauce a few nights later. And I didn’t burn it! Yay!!
I learned how to roast garlic from Simply Recipes. Good method, sound stuff.
Something I didn’t touch on here is that garlic, whilst being a flavor-meister and vampire repellent, is also incredibly healthy. There’s evidence that eating it can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, boost immune system function, and possibly protect us from some cancers. Interesting! Here are links to some stuff about the healthy side of garlic:
Why Garlic Is Good For You -WebMD
Benefits of Garlic: 11 Healthy Reasons to Eat More Of This Smelly Superfood -Huffington Post (I don’t mind the smell at all, but then I’ve tasted charcoal so don’t ask me.)
Garlic -The Worlds Healthiest Foods
How did your garlic work out? Any suggestions or tips or observations or garlic-themed limericks to share? Please leave a comment. Especially if you have a limerick.