I almost hesitate to write about this newish wonder of the foodie world, after finding that, in some circles, they’re already over it.
Alas, we’re in Arkansas, where even the hipsters are open-minded about things for a little longer.
I’ve told you about my recent visit to a food expo by foodservice provider Ben E. Keith, highlighted by the haul of goodies I got to take home at the end of the show. One of them was black garlic, otherwise known as fermented garlic.
Honestly, I wouldn’t have even noticed it if a fellow chef-turned-freebie-hoarder hadn’t exclaimed at the produce display, “HEY, is that fermented garlic?!? I didn’t know we could get that around here.” So of course, I grabbed some for myself, acting like I’d used it for years.
A quick online search found this piece over at Steamy Kitchen, giving me the rundown. What to expect: Gummy. Sweet. Mild. “Caramelly,” says the site’s writer, Jaden Hair. “Reminds me of molasses.”
Yes, dear reader, I can testify. One whiff and I knew, I was in love.
After whatever process this stuff goes through, it loses all its pungent bite, that sharpness that raw, fresh garlic can have. What’s left is smooth, unctuous, deep flavor. It’s the bass note that your kitchen music has been missing.
Jaden’s recipe for scallops used black garlic in slices, frying them to release every bit of their umami madness. I started in the same fashion, cutting the gooey bulbs into slices and frying them in a bit of oil. Immediate problem: telling where they were in the cooking process. They’re black already.
Without boring you with the whole thing, I’ll assume that you know or can figure out how to make a white sauce (the simmered-down heavy cream kind, not the flour-roux kind). I added the cream to the pan, cooked it down, added sliced roasted bell pepper and broccoli, and added some cooked gluten-free pasta and fresh basil.
By the time all this was done, the garlic had broken down into tiny, still-visible pieces throughout the sauce. This was quite perfect, as I had planned on trying to break it up anyway. The finished sauce had a depth and savoriness that would not have been there with regular garlic. In short, win.
So, where do you get black garlic, anyway? For professionals, I suppose the obvious answer is Ben E. Keith (among others, I’m sure), since that’s who introduced me to the stuff.
For the home cook, ordering online seems to be your only recourse for now, at least in Arkansas. Jaden’s supplier, Black Garlic, Inc., seems to be the major (and maybe the only) American-made provider of the stuff. Another, MondoFood, imports the garlic from Korea.
Tell me: Have you used black garlic? Let me know about your experiences and recipes.
UPDATE: I’m told by my friend Jonathan, who works in produce at the Whole Foods Market in Little Rock, that they do indeed stock black garlic. He says we should come in and pick some up 1) before they sell out and 2) to say hey to him. Young women out there, do so, as he’s pretty darn cute. (I say this in a very happily married sort of way, BTW.) 😉