Sometimes the easiest cooking tips produce the biggest boosts. When I was learning to cook, those all-important tips included seasoning the food well with salt, using fresh herbs and citrus to brighten up dishes, and adding roasted garlic to a whole host of recipes.
What’s the best way to serve roasted garlic? Well, I have yet to meet a pasta sauce that hasn’t benefited from a roasted garlic clove or two. Salad dressings, soups, salsas and sauces (I’m looking at you, enchilada sauce) also take on an extra depth thanks to buttery roasted garlic cloves.
One of my favorite ways to serve roasted garlic is on an antipasto platter. Roasting garlic mellows its distinctive flavor, which can be overpowering if eaten raw. The roasted cloves have a soft, almost buttery texture and a delightful muted, but distinctive flavor. Invite your guests to squeeze a roasted clove straight out of its papery skin onto a toasted piece of baguette, then top with an array of cheese, salami or artichoke hearts. I could quite happily eat that for dinner!
The most common method of roasting garlic is in the oven, but it’s also possible to roast the cloves in a skillet or on the grill.
Start by removing all but one layer of the loose papery skin from the outside of the garlic bulb, leaving the bulb intact. I suggest doing this over a bowl, otherwise those little papery bits will find their way into every nook and cranny of your kitchen. I learned that one the hard way.
Next, cut off the top of the bulb, which will leave the top portions of the cloves exposed.
Place the garlic bulb, cut side up, on a doubled square of foil. If you have heavy duty foil, a single layer will do. Drizzle some olive oil over top of the bulb, then rub to coat the entire bulb with the oil.
Pull up the sides of the foil to form a loose package around the garlic and crimp the edges to seal. Place the foil package in a small baking dish or on a baking sheet. Either works.
Pop the garlic into a 400ºF oven and roast for 40 to 45 minutes. The easiest way to tell if the garlic is done is to test it with a knife. Carefully unwrap the foil—it will be hot!—and insert a small, sharp knife into one of the cloves. If the garlic clove is soft and tender, it’s ready. If not, squish the foil together again and pop it back into the oven for another few minutes.
Charring garlic cloves in a skillet doesn’t produce exactly the same texture as oven roasted garlic, but it’s a great option when you want that roasted flavor and need it fast. The garlic cloves won’t have that soft, buttery texture of their oven roasted siblings, but this method still succeeds at mellowing the flavor of the garlic, taking away that telltale pungency of raw garlic.
While skillet charred garlic doesn’t lend itself to spreading on pieces of baguette as part of a charcuterie platter, it is ideal for mixing into salad dressings, salsas and soups.
Break up the bulb of garlic into separate cloves. To do this, remove the outer papery skin from the garlic bulb and place the bulb on a cutting board. Rest a heavy skillet on top of the bulb, then smack the skillet with the palm of your hand. Voila! Separated cloves.
Place a skillet over medium-high heat. A dry skillet is what you want—no oil necessary. Add the garlic cloves and allow the cloves to char, stirring or shaking the pan every 4 to 5 minutes. When the cloves are covered in dark brown spots, they’re done. Transfer to a cutting board, allow the cloves to cool, then easily remove the remaining papery skins.
If it’s sweltering and you’re desperately trying to keep your house cool (hand raised over here!), roasting anything at 400ºF for 40 minutes simply isn’t an appealing option. Enter … the grill!
Follow all of the directions for roasting garlic in the oven, minus the baking dish or baking sheet. Instead, pop the foil packet straight onto the grill. The grill should be preheated to medium-high heat, or as close to 400ºF that you can achieve. Test the garlic with a sharp knife to determine doneness.
Roasted garlic is one of those back-pocket tricks that can elevate just about any dish. Do you have a favorite way to use it? Or a different method of roasting? We’d love to hear them all!