Back to Basics: Roasted Garlic
“Garlic is divine. Few food items can taste so many distinct ways, handled correctly. Misuse of garlic is a crime. Old garlic, burnt garlic, garlic cut too long ago and garlic that has been tragically smashed through one of those abominations, the garlic press, are all disgusting. Please treat your garlic with respect. Sliver it for pasta, like you saw in Goodfellas; don’t burn it. Smash it, with the flat of your knife blade if you like, but don’t put it through a press. I don’t know what that junk is that squeezes out the end of those things, but it ain’t garlic. And try roasting garlic. It gets mellower and sweeter if you roast it whole, still on the clove, to be squeezed out later when it’s soft and brown. Nothing will permeate your food more irrevocably and irreparably than burnt or rancid garlic. Avoid at all costs that vile spew you see rotting in oil in screw-top jars. Too lazy to peel fresh? You don’t deserve to eat garlic.”
— Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
Mr. Bourdain has said it perfectly. Garlic is one of those transcendent ingredients that will permeate a dish with its heady flavor and aroma from just a small clove, it’s in nearly everything worth eating, and it should be treated with respect.
I can’t think of a better way to do so than to roast it and eat it plain with something starchy. When I was in college, I had a boyfriend of Slovak heritage who loved garlic on and in anything. I would peel ten heads at a time and roast all of it at once in a loaf pan with lots of olive oil, and we’d spoon it up and eat it on bread and have terrible breath for the rest of the night. We’d go out dancing and keep our mouths closed.
- Heat your oven to 400°F (200°C).
- Lop off the top 1 cm or so of each head of garlic, being sure to expose every clove.
- Place the head of garlic on a square of aluminum foil, in a cupcake tin, or some other small oven-safe container.
- Sprinkle with lots of salt and pepper (and a few sprigs of fresh herbs if you have ‘em) and drizzle generously with olive oil, then wrap up the square of aluminum or cover the container you’re using with aluminum foil.
- (Alternatively, if you enjoy peeling garlic or have pre-peeled garlic cloves, you can place all the peeled cloves into a container that will fit them snuggly, coat them in olive oil, cover with aluminum foil and proceed as normal. As long as you’re not doing a ton of garlic at a time [e.g., an entire loaf pan's worth], it should take the same amount of time as a normal head of garlic. If you’re roasting a large amount, stir it occasionally and check for doneness by smashing a clove — it should be as soft as room-temperature butter. You can also do this with the garlic head tops that you cut off in step 2.)
- Bake for about 30 minutes, then remove or unwrap the foil and bake for an additional 10 or so minutes until the garlic is golden brown and soft all the way through. You can place the heads on a baking sheet if you’d like, to make sure the cloves caramelize on the sides as well as on top.
- Remove from oven and the garlic sit until it’s cool enough to handle, then either use a small fork to remove the cloves from their little pockets or just squeeze the heads like a tube of toothpaste to extract the roasted garlic. If there is any excess oil, drain it into an airtight container. You can store it with the garlic, or separately.
- Store the garlic in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It should last about a week.
- Blend it into hummus. Since it’s so much sweeter than straight garlic, you can really load it up and the dip won’t be too pungent or spicy.
- Top flatbreads and pizzas with it.
- Make the roasted garlic compound butter by blending two heads of roasted garlic with a stick of softened butter. Then make the best garlic bread of your life.
- Spread it on toasted slices of bread and top with diced tomatoes for bruschetta.
- Mix it with sour cream, crème fraîche, greek yogurt or cream cheese for topping baked potatoes.
- Mix it into mayonnaise for roasted garlic aioli.
- Blend it into soups, pasta sauces, or mashed potatoes.
- Just eat a warm clove smashed onto a piece of bread.
Music to cook by: She’s Long Gone [The Black Keys // Brothers]