It seems like every fancy, French-style recipe tends to contain the same convoluted ingredient: roast garlic.
Whether it is adding it to hummus or dip or using it as a base for a chicken dish, roast garlic has become one of the most fashionable savory flavoring additions since using sherry as cooking wine.
However, if you have ever tried actually to make your own roast garlic, you will probably be familiar with the fragrant smell of burning alliums. How do you actually roast garlic without completely ruining it?
What Is Roast Garlic?
Roast garlic is basically regular garlic, slowly cooked to convert the garlic into a cooked, sweet paste.
Roasting garlic is all about turning it sweeter, less biting, and a lot more spreadable. Some people prefer just to eat roasted garlic spread on toast or just on its own with a spoon.
It is, however, primarily used as an awesome ingredient for amping up the savory flavors and contributing sweet umami flavors to any dish such as The BEST Buttery Garlic Mashed Potatoes.
Keep in mind, though, that it isn't just ordinary garlic cooked in a sauce. There is a good deal of special and unique chemistry occurs that makes garlic incredibly different when you roast it.
What Happens When You Roast Garlic?
When garlic is roasted whole, with its skin intact, the normal chemical reactions that take place when crushing and chopping garlic is not able to take place.
When you cut up garlic, an amino acid called alliin is released from the cell walls. This interacts with another enzyme called alliinase, which work together to make something entirely new.
This new chemical, called allicin, is what makes that signature garlic flavor, as well as additional sulfur compounds that get emitted through the crushed cell walls.
When you roast garlic, instead of the direct formation of allicin and other sulfur compounds that you usually get, you end up with a sweeter and milder flavor.
Thus, garlic that gets roasted in its skin has a sweet, caramelized flavor while also being mild. So, how do you actually go ahead and roast your own garlic?
How Do You Roast Garlic?
- Take a full head of garlic and remove any of the loose, flaky outer layers of the head. Make sure not to remove too much of the garlic’s skin, as this is important for the cooking process. You want to end up with the head still intact with the cloves undisturbed, but all the extra paper scraps to be discarded
- Place your garlic head in the center of a piece of foil and drizzle with oil and salt. Olive oil is traditional, but any flavorful oil will work here. You then seal the foil so that the garlic is completely covered, ready for the oven.
- Allow your foil-wrapped garlic to cook in a 200F oven until golden brown all along the exterior. Cooking times vary, though, so make sure to check after 30 minutes, although it can take up to 40 minutes for the garlic to be fully roasted.
- Once cooked, remove garlic from the oven and allow to cool completely. If you try to remove the garlic from the head before it cools, you will likely either burn yourself or end up with roasted garlic paste oozing everywhere.
- After 20 to 30 minutes, you should be able to squeeze the garlic out with ease. To do this, simply pinch the individual garlic cloves from the tip of the root end, squeezing upwards like a tube of toothpaste. This is then ready to either use within a meal or enjoy on its own.
It really is surprisingly easy, so why not try spreading roast garlic on a slice of toast for a tasty snack or using it in your next recipe?
Just remember, no allicin means that this doesn't really taste like garlic, so it will alter a lot of recipes pretty drastically.