Meditation on Garlic

If you haven’t had fresh garlic, my friend, then you don’t know what you are missing.

In our grocery stores, we are mostly familiar with dried garlic that has likely been shipped in from some exotic port across the world from us.

Lacy Gage from Blue Moose Farm recently supplied me with enough heads of well-groomed garlic from her luxe gardens to make a full complement of fall garlic confit.

Yes, we love our garlic, but fresh garlic is the real deal. It is juicy, easy to peel, sweet, and has flavor worth shouting about. Anything else pales in comparison.

And so it is with my garlic confit.  It took 7 heads or approximately 75 peeled and trimmed cloves of garlic. But when you have something this luscious, it is not work. It becomes a Zen meditation on the profound glory of real food.

In this an ancient method of preserving garlic, peeled cloves are gently poached in olive or other mild oil, rendering the tamed garlic sweet, soft, and sublimely creamy. In very little time, you receive ready to use garlic, plus a richly infused oil for cooking or flavoring, and garlic with much of its obnoxious odor eliminated.

Garlic is good on just about anything.

Mash a few cloves with or without butter for instant garlic bread; make a quick salad dressing with a few smashed cloves, a bit of infused oil and a dash of vinegar; toss mashed cloves with steamed vegetables; add mashed cloves and oil to hot drained pasta with chopped tomato and a bit of basil. Or, slip mashed garlic under its skin before roasting chicken.

Garlic Confit

Ingredients
7 heads garlic, cloves trimmed and peeled
Enough olive oil to cover, approximately 1½ cup
1-2 sprigs of fresh thyme, rosemary, or savory
Bay leaf, dried red pepper

Directions

  1. Place the garlic cloves, oil, herbs, and a dried red pepper if desired in a small pan over medium-low heat; cover and poach until the cloves are tender but not browned, about 30 minutes.
  2. Cool to room temperature, transfer cloves to a clean 3-cup storage jar and cover with the infused oil.
  3. Cover tightly and store in refrigerator for several weeks; keep covered with oil.  Use clean utensils and handle with care to avoid contamination.  Yield: 2-3 cups.
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Mayo vs Homemade Mayonnaise

Homemade mayonnaise.  Once you have tried it, you will never look at processed mayonnaise the same again.  In fact, they are so radically different it is difficult to even refer to the copycat as “mayonnaise”. Maybe ‘mayo’ makes sense after all.

Sadly, when it comes to taste, the typical processed ‘mayo’ is  comparatively flat and lags far behinds in the characteristic flavor points of real mayonnaise.  It lacks any of the fruitiness supplied by olive oil, the eggy richness provided by real eggs, the bright piquant notes given from fresh lemon juice, or any nuanced mineral undertones contributed by fine mustard.

Mayonnaise is the result of the exquisite bonding process between the egg and oil.  An emulsion forms when air is introduced via the whisking motion which suspends and stabilizes the oil in the eggs/yolks.

MayoIf there is a blender or food processor in the house a homemade mayonnaise takes 10 minutes or less.  A handheld immersion blender also achieves good results.  The whisk is an obvious option, but be prepared for a serious workout.

It is not necessary to use only olive oil when making mayonnaise.  Any type or a combination that includes neutral oil works well.  Since olive oil has so much flavor I often substitute part with canola or other vegetable oil; I’ve had good luck using part walnut oil, too.

Once you have mayonnaise on hand, other items can be introduced to change it up.  For sandwiches I like to add a little chopped pepperoncini or capers.  Minced basil or other fresh herbs are a nice addition when used with cheeses or salamis.  Add a clove or two of garlic for a quick and fabulous aioli.  It is an instant sauce for asparagus, broccoli, artichokes and other vegetables; if necessary just thin down the mayonnaise a tad with a bit of warm water.

 Egg Salad

egg salad and mayoWhen making egg salad, homemade mayonnaise has so much flavor little else is necessary.    Mash three hard cooked eggs with a fork to desired consistency.  Add a tablespoonful of mayonnaise, a teaspoonful of fresh minced thyme, parsley, perhaps a bit of diced celery, green onion, or a few capers for added crunch and zest, plus a few grinds of salt and pepper.  Makes two or more sandwiches, or as a dip with fresh vegetables or crackers.

To save a broken mayonnaise

Using a clean food processor or blender blend 2 egg yolks and 1 tsp cold water until smooth (an immersion blender also works here).  Very slowly drizzle in the broken mayonnaise until an emulsion forms. Slowly add the balance to form a thick mayonnaise.  It may not take all of the broken sauce.  A very helpful tip from Mark Bittman.

Here is Mark Bittman’s Homemade Mayonnaise using a food processor.  The same method can be applied when using a whisk or an immersion blender. Try as I might, I can’t improve upon it:   it is delicious and nearly foolproof.

Homemade Mayonnaise

From How to Cook Everything and Food Processor Mayonnaise, by Mark Bittman

Ingredients

1        large egg plus 1 egg yolk
1        Tbsp  lemon juice or sherry vinegar
2        tsp Dijon mustard
1/2    tsp salt, or to taste
1        cup olive oil or a combination with canola or other mild oil, approximately

 Directions

  1. In container of blender or food process place the eggs, lemon juice, mustard and salt; blend until smooth.
  2. With machine running slowly add the oil in dribbles until it begins to thicken (If using food processor pour about 1/4 cup into the food pusher and allow to drip in until it thickens.)
  3. Once an emulsion forms slowly pour in remaining oil until a thick sauce forms, and it absorbs no more oil.
  4. Store well covered in refrigerator up 3 days. Yield: 1 cup.