Sunday, August 2, 2009

I have trouble getting a great garlic flavor out of my garlic, what’s the secret?

This is a common dilemma among cooks. Garlic is a deceptively delicate item, despite it’s ability to hang, drying for months before use, and still be delicious. Once out of its papery skin, garlic is very sensitive to oxidation, taking a turn for the worse within 20 minutes. For this reason it’s better to process garlic shortly before use. And it goes without saying to avoid the pre-peeled stuff whenever possible.

That said, of course you need to find good garlic and this is the time of year when it is at its peek. The head should feel tight, and skin taught, the garlic itself should be very firm. If you happen to get a head of garlic that’s already sprouting, you can cut the cloves lengthwise and remove the green part as it can be terribly bitter and acrid.

If you do want to get it ready ahead of time, you can chop/crush it and cover it with olive oil. I say “chop/crush” because it’s a hybrid of the two and they both serve a purpose. Chopping increases the surface area for even distribution and crushing releases the oil that makes garlic taste so good. The olive does a few things as well, it slows down the oxidation process and it absorbs the great, but volatile, fat-soluble flavors. This method can be used in the just any recipe that calls for garlic.

Spaghetti All’aglio e Pepperoncino

½ lb. spaghetti (I like de cecco, no. 12. Indicating a thicker noodle)
1 ½ tbsps chopped garlic
1 tsp chili pepper flakes
3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp Parsley, chopped
1 squeeze of lemon

{You could use the garlic and oil from the method suggested above}

1. over medium to medium low heat, lightly toast the garlic and crushed chili in the olive oil, this will take a little while, up to 8-10 minutes. The garlic should take the slightest color (see pic), dark brown garlic will taste very bitter.
2. Boil the pasta to your liking in salted water (I like 1 tbsp salt per 1 qt. water)
3. Drain the pasta (don’t rinse it) and toss in the oil along with parsley and lemon juice.

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