Chef Tips: Garlic

Garlic

Let’s Talk Garlic

Garlic is a cook’s close friend and longtime companion. It can be chopped, minced, sliced, pasted, fermented, blackened, pickled, roasted, etc.

Not only does garlic provide flavor and aroma to food, it is also thought to provide a myriad of health benefits including the ability to “reduce the risk for cardiovascular diseases, have anti-tumor and antimicrobial effects, and show benefit on high blood glucose concentration.”(source).

Picking Garlic

In U.S. markets, there are 2 major sources of garlic, California and China. Chinese garlic tends to be much less flavorful with a lower brix level and can have a metallic taste. California grown garlic is sweet, plump, and aromatic. The easiest way to spot California grown garlic is by flipping it over. If the root is still present, it’s more than likely CA grown. If the root has been removed, leaving a concave smooth spot, it’s likely Chinese. This method is not 100% accurate mind you. Some U.S. growers do remove the root for aesthetic purposes, but it’s less common.

Peeling Garlic

There’s certainly more than one way to peel garlic, and each cook has their own favorite method. I’ll share with you the basics.

To peel a single clove of garlic, remove the clove and place it flatly on a cutting board. With a chef’s knife, slice off the blunt (root) end (1). Now lay your blade flat on the clove and press down with your palm to break (2). You should now be able to pull the garlic clove away from the husk (3).

To peel a whole garlic bulb, start by setting the bulb top side down (root facing up) on a cutting board. Using your palm press straight down into the root, breaking the cloves away from each other (1). Discard the root stem and separate any remaining joined cloves (2). Place the garlic cloves in a steel bowl, cover with a second steel bowl rim to rim, and shake vigorously for 10-20 seconds. The cloves should now be separated from their husks (3).

Cutting Garlic

For beautiful thinly sliced garlic, ensure you either use the second peeling method listed above, or go the more laborious route by cutting the end of the garlic clove and manually removing the husk with your fingers (1). Smashing the clove will result in a broken clove that does not slice nicely. Once peeled, use a chef’s or paring knife to thinly slice (almost translucent) the garlic from the root to the tip (2), leaving delicate wheels of garlic (3). This type of garlic is best used for dishes like oil based pastas or stir-fry where the garlic will be highlighted, or toasted for garnish.

For chopped garlic break the clove with the flat end of a chef’s knife (1) then chop roughly to the desired size (2). This type of non-uniform product is best for use in slow, wet cooking, and when further processing will be involved, as in a tomato sauce that will be made uniform with an immersion or table top blender.

Minced Garlic

The process for minced garlic is similar like of chopped garlic, however, the goal is to create small, uniform pieces by chopping thoroughly with your knife. This allows the garlic to be cooked at precisely the same rate and is best for when the garlic must be sautéed at high heat momentarily, as in a braised meat dish or Indian curry.

Finally, pasted garlic begins with minced garlic. Sprinkle a pinch of course Kosher salt over the garlic for added grit (1) and using the flat side of your knife, scrape the garlic back and forth on the cutting board (2). With one hand, hold the handle to the knife, and with the other hand, apply pressure with your fingertips to the top of the blade. Use controlled motions and be methodical to prevent slippage. Pasted garlic (3) can be used unilaterally, but is best suited for finished dressings or for uses that don’t require cooking.

Cooking with Garlic

Cooks commonly believe that garlic must be heavily cooked or browned for dishes, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Except for certain dishes like Indian bhindi, garlic is cooked and ready the moment it becomes fragrant. This normally happens around 30 seconds, depending on the temperature of the pot or pan.

Garlic can safely be cooked much longer in foods that contain high levels of moisture, as in tomato sauces or soups, because the liquid can only reach a maximum temperature 212 degrees Fahrenheit, protecting the garlic from burning. This protection does not exist in a dry cooking where the temperature can easily exceed over 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

That’s it for this week. We hope you learned something useful and until next time, keep cooking!

Cheers!

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