How to Roast Garlic
Roasted garlic had its heyday in the 1990s. Suddenly every restaurant bread basket came with a little bowl of garlic smush next to the butter, and mashed potatoes everywhere were anointed with its musky flavor. Terra cotta garlic roasters hit the market with a vengeance, and home cooks everywhere began buying heads of garlic in bulk. Roasted garlic became a major player in everything from salad dressing to dip mixes to hummus.
But as with anything that becomes ubiquitous (looking at you, kale), it got so overdone and put in places it didn’t need to be, and the pendulum swung the other way, and made it a dated flavor, more passé than soigné. So, now we have a whole generation of people who do not know what it means to take a pungent and peppery head of fresh garlic and reduce it to a caramelized paste that hints at both umami and sweetness and can be a powerhouse ingredient to have around.
Roasting garlic is about as easy as it gets, but the applications are almost endless. Mashed into softened butter or cream cheese or goat cheese gives you a spread that takes breads of all kinds to new heights. Whisked into a pan sauce gives garlic backbone without assaulting the palate. A thin smear on toasted sourdough or English muffin gives a surprising base for a poached egg or elevates your (in danger of being on the same path) avocado toast. You can stir it into pasta sauce, scatter it on pizza, or fold it into buttered rice.
And you can store it in a jar in the fridge, covered in a layer of protective olive oil, for up to two weeks.
Here’s how to make it:
Choose your garlic
Buy heads that are tight, with their papery skins protecting them, and they should feel heavy for their size and not as if they are a bit hollow. If you have access to farmers’ market garlic, so much the better, but try to buy at a store with high turnover so that the garlic is as fresh as possible.
Prep the garlic
Slice the top half-inch off of the head to reveal the cloves. Place in the center of a large piece of tin foil and drizzle one teaspoon of olive oil over the cut side of each head.
Roast your garlic
I do 425 degrees for about an hour, but if you are roasting anything else at any temp from 350-450, toss the packet in there on the rack, and let it cook until the cloves are soft, between 45 min and 75 minutes depending on how hot your oven is.
Rest your garlic
I let the garlic cool to room temp in its package so that I can handle it safely.
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If you want whole cloves of cooked garlic looking all pristine, you want confit garlic, which is another technique. Properly roasted garlic will almost never come out of the skins whole because it has been reduced to a perfectly velvety melted texture, which is what makes it so easy to blend into other things. I pinch the bottom of the cooled head and squish the roasted garlic paste into a bowl or small container. If I am not going to use within two days, I cover it by about a quarter inch with extra virgin olive oil and store in an airtight container for up to two weeks. The oil then gets the benefit of the flavor and is great for vegetables and salad dressings.