Garlic's Dark Side
The other day, a box of something mysterious and special showed up in our regular produce delivery from Farm Art: black garlic! To the naked eye, these bulbs might pass for regular garlic. But peeling away their papery skins exposes not the smooth white cloves you're used to seeing, but deep inky hued cloves, the color of coffee grinds.
Even though we've heard of black garlic, we were still a little surprised at just how BLACK it is. The texture is novel, as well - soft and a bit gummy, as if super roasted. A little bit eaten raw revealed an amazing flavor, mild and salty/sweet, with hints of balsamic vinegar, tamarind, and what can only be described as "umami." Umami, that prized and esoteric flavor profile sought by chefs and food lovers, is the embodiment of savoriness.
Black garlic has its roots in Korean cuisine, and is made by fermenting raw garlic at extremely high heat. It started to make a big splash in Western cuisine in the mid 2000s, including a mention in the New York Times, being the featured ingredient on Top Chef America and in a challenge on an episode of Bravo's Top Chef New York. Sometimes crazy-hyped ingredients don't, or can't, live up to all the hullabaloo, but in black garlic's case, the hype is justified. It is delicious and strange and versatile - all things that keep us having fun in the kitchen.
We plan to use our cache of black garlic for a few different things, but one that we're particularly psyched about is melting it into a coconut milk-based cream sauce with onions, shiitakes, and spinach. What a rich and complex flavor! Look for this sauce on the menu at our upcoming Saturday night Farmhouse Table dinners!