If you’ve ever seen black garlic (we recently spied it sold in plastic pouches at Trader Joe’s), you might have assumed that it was mistakenly left on the shelf for too long. Because yes, the flesh of the pungent bulbs actually is jet black, and comes cloaked in a withered, papery skin. It’s potentially pretty off-putting if you don’t know what you’re looking at, but surprisingly, seriously delicious as well.
First popularized in Asian cuisine, black garlic isn’t fermented, but created by heating whole bulbs at around 140°F for a month to six weeks, which results in deeply caramelized cloves with a sweet, balsamic-like flavor. (Salivating yet?) And since funky, syrupy black garlic is essentially a little bundle of umami (the famed fifth taste), the ways to use it are limitless — meaning that it’s no longer found exclusively at Asian eateries.
Take the recently opened Lower East Side bistro, Rosette, which serves New American fare, like Dry Aged Strip Steak with Black Garlic and Caramelized Cauliflower… talk about an umami triple play! And instead of the traditional white cloves, which can be offputtingly bitter and intense when raw, Willow Road in Chelsea substitutes subtler black garlic in their awesome Caesar Salad, laced with Anchovies and Parmesan Crumbs.
Black garlic plays perfectly into Piora’s Korean-Italian concept in their popular Squid Ink Bucatini dish, melted down into an earthy sauce and dotted with tender chunks of Dungeness Crab, bright Red Chili and fresh, chopped Scallions. And New York’s original, high-end Scandinavian restaurant, Aquavit, serves a truly unusual dish called Breakfast Garlic; a Granola made by dipping Black Garlic in Crème Fraîche, and sprinkling it with Pistachios and freeze-dried Raspberries. If you’d rather not deal with garlic breath first thing in the morning, it’s also served during dinner service as a garnish for Grass Fed Lamb, with Sweet Potato, Yellow Chanterelles and Fig Jus.
We’re not surprised that Wylie Dufresne’s ever-playful Alder in the East Village also embraces black garlic, using it to cure buttery planks of Hamachi, along with Fennel, Timut Peppercorn and Orange Vinegar. And if you’d like to begin experimenting with black garlic at home, it’s one of the signature flavors at chef Sam Mason’s quirky, artisanal mayonnaise shop, Empire Mayo. Just think about what fantastic Deviled Eggs it’ll make for your next Halloween party!
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