Dating back more than 6,000 years ago to central Asia, garlic took the culinary world by storm. It is used in cuisines on all the world’s continents and is one of America’s most popular herbs. (An herb is a plant that is used to flavor or scent other foods.)
A member of the onion genus, Allium, garlic’s cousins include the chive, green onion/scallion, leek, onion and shallot. (Allium is the Latin word for garlic.)
There are festivals dedicated to garlic, restaurants centered around it, and very few savory foods that don’t go with it.
The most common use of garlic involves crushing or mincing a few cloves and adding the raw garlic directly into a recipe. But you can change it up and cook entire bulbs or whole cloves of garlic as a side or a garnish to please your favorite garlic lovers.
There are two principal ways to do this, each delivering different flavors and textures.
Turn whole garlic bulbs or peeled cloves into a baked treat. Photo by SensorSpot | IST.
Roasting heads of garlic is the simpler of the methods.
Using peeled garlic cloves instead of the whole bulb, the confit* method develops a flavor similar to roasting, while bringing out the garlic’s sweetness. The garlic-flavored oil that remains after cooking is incredibly useful as a quick flavor booster in almost any recipe that requires oil—including a vinaigrette for the meal’s salad course, marinades or bread-dipping.
Because you can freeze or refrigerate the confit for future use, feel free to make a lot at one time.
First, a trick to peel the cloves: Soaking the unpeeled cloves in cold water for five minutes loosens the skin and make it much easier to keep the cloves intact while peeling. Slice off the root and tip with a sharp paring knife, then use the knife to lift off the papery skin.
No: It’s just the opposite. Elephant garlic is more closely related to the leek than to garlic. It may look like an enormous bulb of garlic (some can weigh as much as a pound), but it has only a very mild garlic flavor and a texture that’s more potato-like.
Use it when you want only a subtle hint of garlic (in soups and stews, for example), slice it raw into salads or lightly sauté it as a garnish (be careful not to overcook—it can turn bitter).
*Confit is a method of preservation whereby something (usually meat, as in duck confit) is cooked slowly in fat (in the case of duck confit, in its own fat). It is then submerged and stored in the fat, where it will last for months. This method of preservation was used extensively prior to the availability of refrigeration.
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