Seasoned cooks and novices alike know garlic is an essential part of a huge variety of recipes. The cloves add distinctive flavor to everything from pasta to potatoes. However, using that powerful taste takes practice. Here are four tips to keep in mind the next time you reach for a head of garlic:
1. Always keep it fresh
While pre-cut garlic is readily available at the grocery store you may be sacrificing a great deal of flavor for convenience. Keep a few fresh cloves on hand, and take the time to cut or crush them yourself. You’ll be able to taste the difference.
2. Use the right cut
The way you prepare garlic before cooking can make a significant difference in how your dish turns out. Using a garlic press or mortar and pestle gives you strong flavors, but a microplane grater will have the most intense results.
Mincing by hand leaves a relatively mild taste, and it is the method called for in many sauce or marinade recipes. Begin by removing the outer layers of skin from the head of garlic and smashing it to break the cloves loose. Peel and crush each of them with your knife. Roughly chop the cloves and then give them a finer cut by rocking the knife back and forth.
3. Wait until the right moment
It is easy to end up with burned garlic, particularly when it’s been cut into small bits. Avoid setting the stove’s temperature too high and clock when you add garlic to the pan. For a pasta sauce, first saute the garlic and then add liquid to lower the heat. Wait for a stir-fry to be about halfway done before throwing in the sliced cloves.
4. Roast slowly
Taking care with the time and temperature is especially important when it comes to roasting garlic. First trim a quarter inch from the top of a whole head while the oven heats to 400 degrees. Add one or two teaspoons of olive oil before wrapping the garlic in aluminum foil. Set it on the middle rack in the oven to roast for about 40 minutes. The garlic is done when you can easily cut into the center clove, but you can keep cooking to achieve a golden color and caramelized taste.