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The Chef Ingredient You Aren't Using 

Imagine garlic without stinky side effects

Always on the hunt for new things to try in the kitchen, I wondered recently about any new spice trends out there, and asked Matthew Perry at Savory Spice Shop. Without hesitation he opened a jar of black garlic, removing the papery peel from a clove, saying, "try this." I hesitated at eating a whole clove for risk of offensive breath the remainder of the day, but when someone I trust is excited about food, I follow their lead.

Salted butter and black garlic combine to make a tempting spread for fresh bread or added to roasted, baked or mashed potatoes. - LISA SIPE
  • Lisa Sipe
  • Salted butter and black garlic combine to make a tempting spread for fresh bread or added to roasted, baked or mashed potatoes.

The clove was tender and had the jelly-like texture of Turkish delight. It was a little umami bomb; sweet, sour and savory with hints of tamarind and garlic. There were none of the offensive characteristics of raw garlic; it didn't have a bite, it wasn't stinky and didn't linger on my breath.

For centuries, people in South Korea, Japan and Thailand have used black garlic, made by fermenting whole cloves of garlic for weeks in heat. Over time the color of the garlic slowly turns from ivory to black and the texture changes.

In my kitchen I experimented with a few simple recipes. By combining black garlic with salted butter, I whipped up a compound butter in less than five minutes. I slathered it on fresh baked ciabatta and relished the citrus and fig notes. At your next dinner party start the meal with warm bread and black garlic compound butter and your guests will think they're dining at a fancy steakhouse. Better yet, serve a seared steak with a pat of the butter on top.

Important note: You can't substitute black garlic for fresh garlic in recipes. They taste different and you can use a much greater quantity of black garlic because the flavor is more delicate. If you want more garlic flavor with your black garlic, add a little fresh garlic to your recipe.

Black garlic has been trending upward for the last few years, according to Google Trends. Yet even with that rise in popularity in the West, it still isn't a mainstream ingredient. Are chefs keeping this as a secret ingredient for themselves? Maybe, but they've been using it for a while. In 2008, black garlic was used on an episode of Iron Chef America, and Top Chef, in fish dishes.

Since trying that first black clove I've been obsessed. It's such a versatile ingredient. I've added it to a vinaigrette, a vegetable omelet and in place of raw garlic in a sun-dried tomato pesto with delicious results. I have yet to make black garlic chocolate chip cookies, but my curiosity is pulling me toward the unlikely combination. Black garlic is a bit sweet, in the way balsamic vinegar is, so I can see how it would work in cookies, cakes or truffles.

Buy black garlic as whole bulbs or in powder form. In addition to Savory Spice Shop, I've occasionally found it at Grocery Outlet. If you own a temperature-controlled fermentation box, you can make black garlic at home.

Black Garlic Compound Butter

  • 1 stick salted butter, softened
  • 2 single head black garlic bulbs (4-6 cloves)
Combine butter and black garlic in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Scoop into a small bowl and serve. If the butter gets too soft, refrigerate until firm.

Black Garlic Vinaigrette

  • 2 single head black garlic bulbs (4-6 cloves)
  • 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 small shallot
  • 1 tsp agave (or a ¼ tsp sugar)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
Combine all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Taste. Add more salt and pepper if needed.
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