|How To Roast Garlic|
Garlic is kind of like the bad-boy of the vegetable world. Known for its stink, its pungent bite, its ferocious ability to ward off vampires and demons… and yet despite its bad reputation, Garlic is every foodie’s secret crush. The unassuming bulb, so innocent in appearance, has even earned itself the name of “stinking rose”.
And yet… what is in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would still stink as sweet!
I grew up in a house where the words “you can never have too much garlic” were said often, and with great sincerity. It isn’t true, of course… you can most definitely have too much raw, bitter garlic in one meal. But sweet, warm, roasted garlic, on the other hand? Now that’s another story!
It’s FAK Friday (Feeding my Appetite for Knowledge), and this week I thought I’d show you how to make one of my all-time favorite things, roasted garlic. We all know garlic can overpower a dish with its pungent, sometimes spicy flavor, but with a quick sit in the oven garlic takes on a whole new quality of rich, sweet, melt-in-your-mouthness. Yes, you heard me. I love to use roasted garlic in homemade pesto, garlic butter, or stirred together with olive oil and brushed onto bread to make croutons, or tossed into pasta. In fact, there’s really no wrong way to use it!
The downside, of course, is the pungent aroma that can hang around well after the garlic itself is gone. When raw garlic is cut, crushed, or chewed, it releases a sulfurous chemical called allicin. Allicin is a big component of garlic’s spicy bite, but is also responsible for its anti-fungal properties. When garlic is cooked, the allicin is released, leaving the garlic much sweeter and more mellow in both smell and flavor. Of course, if you plan to rub a bunch of garlic on an open wound in the hopes of avoiding an infection you’d be better off with raw… but since you probably aren’t going to do that, let’s get to roasting, shall we?
Start with some garlic. Scratch that, start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees F.
Now grab some garlic. Big whole bulbs are great for roasting just peel away as much of the loose, papery outer skin as you can (it tends to burn), and lop off their heads – err, cut the top end of the bulb off to reveal the cluster of cloves inside. Or, if you prefer to roast just a little garlic, pull off as many cloves as you want, and peel them.
Grab a piece of foil and set your cut bulb (or peeled cloves) onto it. Drizzle with a couple teaspoons of good quality olive oil, and wrap the foil up around the garlic to seal it in a nice tight ball. You can set these on a tray or baking dish, but I’m quite fond of using a muffin tin to hold the bundles of foil in place.
Place on the center rack of your preheated oven, and let them roast for about 35-40 minutes, or until the garlic is nice and soft, and the sweet wafting aroma has filled your entire house. (If you’re doing just a few cloves, instead of full bulbs, reduce the cook time by 15-20 minutes.) Be sure to let the packets cool sufficiently before opening them up, because there’s a lot of pent up steam just waiting to burn your fingers off. If you must open the foil to check on the garlic, I suggest an oven mitt on one hand and a long fork or other utensil in the other.
(Update: if you’re like me, and want to roast your garlic in the middle of summer but don’t want to run the oven, you can throw your foil pouches onto the grill over low, indirect heat instead. Just be sure to keep them away from the flame so they don’t burn!)
Once the garlic is out of the oven and cool enough to handle, go ahead and unwrap those bad boys. The first thing you’ll want to do with your roasted garlic is rub it all over like perfume, but trust me when I say it’s better off in your food than on your face… and clothes… and everything.
So how should you use your roasted garlic, you ask? Besides the perfume idea, I’m not sure how you shouldn’t use it. To remove the soft, golden jewels cloves, you can either squeeze the bulb at its base and watch the goodness ooze out like a tube of toothpaste, or you can pluck individual cloves out with a fork or toothpic.
Because it’s so much mellower than raw garlic, I find that I can double the amount I would otherwise need for most recipes. I always use roasted garlic in homemade pestos (like this one), and it adds wonderful depth of flavor to soups and sauces. Whole roasted cloves are amazing on pizza, or tossed with bread and olive oil to make croutons, or mashed with fresh herbs into softened butter, or mixed into mashed potatoes, or simply spread directly onto toast with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt. When garlic is this good, there is no wrong way to eat it!
What’s your favorite way to use garlic? I’d love to know!