This fine condiment is something that I would carry with me if nature had given me a constantly refrigerated body part for transporting things. You know, like a kangaroo crossed with a mini fridge. I’ve checked and, shockingly, nobody in the medical community seems to be working on this. No idea when they will catch up to the important work. Anyway, this stuff lives in the realm of the hard to clearly describe as its flavour lands smack in the balanced middle of the five basic tastes: sweet, sour, salt, bitter, umami. So, flavour. Yes. Make it and find out for yourself.
Braised Garlic Butter
On the applicable-use front, I recommend you start by smearing this on bread and crackers as a sort of gateway to your unavoidable addiction. Once you get into the dark web of garlic butter, you will inevitably go from treating everything like a garlic butter éclair all the way to stealing cement mixers so you can make extra-large batches of the stuff.
It’s really not beyond belief that you could find friends and family holding an intervention to convince you to stop, as this is a relatively easy thing to make as long as you have successfully braised cloves of garlic on hand (recipe follows). Just make sure they are, and I quote (me), “fully cooked, soft, golden, and sweet.”
Makes about 1 cup
1 batch of Braised Whole Cloves of Garlic (about 1 cup), cooled (recipe below)
½ cup butter, your choice of salted or unsalted, at room temperature
2 tablespoons whipping (35%) cream (approx., maybe more depending on how spreadable you need it to be)
Salt, as needed, which is probably none if you use salted butter
- Place the braised garlic cloves in a food processor, blender, or, if you’re old-school, a mortar and pestle. Add the butter (if not room temperature, roughly cut it into smaller chunks). If everything is cold when you begin to blend, you will find that the mixture is quite thick, and if you blend it for too long it will become slushy. This means you should move rather quickly. More, like, move with purpose or move with precision, but yes, get moving so it doesn’t get hot and all squishy.
- Assuming you’re fast and what you’re looking at is quite cold and thick, you can thin it with some of the cream. The 2 tablespoons listed should be enough to loosen the chilled product so it’s spreadable. If you have strong spreading hands you probably don’t even need the cream, but it’s comforting to know there are ways to find success without wishing, hoping, or praying. These are things you should abandon as a cook; it’s better to stay in the harsh light of reality.
- You should now have a smooth, golden-yellow butter that tastes of sweet, sweet garlic. Season with salt if you see fit, but this stuff is already punched rich with flavour. It’s one of those rare instances when salt is just not that important.
- Scrape your braised garlic butter into a jar, bowl, or lidded container and keep refrigerated. It will last for at least a week (but don’t use if it gets furry, off-smelling, or old), and if you make a large batch you can certainly portion it up and freeze it for a lot longer (say, up to 6 months).
Braised Whole Cloves of Garlic
How could you ever fall in love with someone who doesn’t like garlic? How could you even work for somebody who isn’t seduced by garlic’s possibilities? Garlic love—I have it. It’s pure. It’s simple. Hell, it’s even primal.
This dish is a little fussy preparation-wise, but once complete it can be a powerful ingredient in so many other dishes. Use it to make Braised Garlic Butter or eat it whole on top of grilled meat or vegetables. Mmmm, candy-sweet caramelized garlic. Garlic buttah. Lots of options, no limits.
Makes about 1 cup of braised garlic
TipVegetable stock is better than water, for sure, but you will get a more robust flavour if you use a liquid that has glutamic proteins (generating umami reactions in your mouth), and that’s going to come from either meat or fish stock.
2 tablespoons good extra virgin olive oil
2 dozen or more cloves peeled fresh garlic
½ cup dry white wine (don’t be too fussy)
1 cup any good stock or water (see Tip)
Salt, to taste
- You need a large shallow pan or pot big enough to hold the garlic cloves in a single layer—you don’t want them piled up in there. Add the oil to the pan and warm it over high heat. When the oil hits the smoking point, it’s ready for the garlic. Add the garlic and, without moving the cloves around too much, let them get hotter and hotter. Check a clove or two, and when you see that they’re beginning to brown, turn the heat down to just north of medium. You want the pan and oil to be hot enough to begin to brown the outside of the garlic, but low enough that you won’t lose control. Watch carefully: The cloves are essentially oozing sugars, and they can burn in the blink of an eye. You want this stuff to caramelize. Once the bottoms are browned, turn the cloves over and brown the other sides—don’t fuss for perfection, but a successful browning stage means your end product will have a deeper flavour.
- Deglaze the pan with the white wine. This means turning the heat up to a full, high flame, adding all of the wine, and then, using a wooden spoon, making sure all the brown bits (fond) that have stuck to the bottom of the pan are washed into the wine liquid, turning it a golden colour. Boil the wine until only a thick syrup remains, and then add the stock or water a little at a time and cook until each clove of garlic is tender all the way through, about 10 minutes. You don’t stir this as much as you do the whole pan toss thing best described by the French as “sauté.”
- Depending on a lot of factors (the size of the pan, the amount of heat, the garlic itself), you may need to add even more liquid. Just keep adding more stock or water and cook until the garlic is tender. The worst thing you can do is let the pan go dry, as this will cause the whole thing to burn. Remove the pan from the heat, salt the cloves to taste, and let them cool.
- The end product isn’t easy to describe, but if you’re looking at soft, browned individual cloves of garlic completely bathed in golden brown syrup, you did it. Store both the cloves and liquid (together, of course) in the fridge for a week or so. Enjoy.