I’d rather have an ounce of garlic than a pound of truffles,” my father often said, setting the tone for garlic worship in our family. When I was growing up, no meal was complete without the odoriferous cloves: from omelettes at breakfast to the garlic butter popcorn as a pre-bedtime snack.
Thin coat: Caramelize the garlic.
I use green garlic in dressings, dips and sautés. Even a breakfast of toasted baguette with butter is improved by a topping of thinly sliced raw green garlic sprinkled with sea salt and fresh thyme leaves. Milder and more succulent than regular garlic, green garlic won’t cause your fellow subway riders to inch away from you.
Another bonus of green: Because it’s not dried, there’s no papery skin. After trimming the roots and tops, all you need to do is peel off the outermost layer of the bulb.
It occurred to me that this crop deserved a celebration, a party where I could serve a repast showcasing garlic in its many incarnations. Scapes, which are thin, vivid green and curling, are the flower shoots of the garlic bulb. Farmers cut them off to encourage the bulbs to grow plumper. When the garlic is harvested before individual cloves are formed, it is called green garlic.
I came up with a menu to showcase the alliums in several manifestations: raw, quickly sautéed and slowly confited. The pantry offered canned white beans and chickpeas. I considered hummus but decided to go for the paler legume to flaunt the scapes’ verdant hue.
I ground beans and scapes in the food processor with a little lemon and olive oil. The dip was fluffy with a velvety texture that wrapped itself around an assertive wallop so intense, I worried I’d scare even my garlic-loving parents out of the house.
Instead, my guests closed in on the bowl like cats to cream cheese. The Double Garlic Soup, more delicate and earthy than the dip, met a similar fate. As did a puffy soufflé filled with chopped green garlic, chives and Gruyère cheese. This dish threw my guests off guard. “You think of soufflé as being all airy and a little bland,” a friend said, “then the garlic smacks you in the face. In a good way.”
For the next course, I yielded to garlic’s subtler state, which it takes on while slowly confiting. To balance the sweetness, I sautéed caramelized garlic with salty pancetta, fiery chilli flakes, a squeeze of lemon for brightness and some chopped peppery arugula, then tossed it with penne. The lemon and chilli prevented the garlic from being too cloying.
The last course was chai-spiced chicken wings with green garlic aioli. I decided to season the chicken with whole chai spices and make an aioli with just egg and oil—and loads of garlic.
The aioli was the most potent dish of the night, and everyone quadruple-dipped their wings into the bowl.
Chai-spiced Chicken Wings with Green Garlic Aioli
Serves 2 to 4
For the chicken:
½ fat bulb green garlic, root and green parts trimmed, outer layer removed, or 4 regular garlic cloves, peeled
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cardamom pods (about 16)
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
1 star anise
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 pinch ground cloves
1.15 kg chicken wings
For the aioli:
½ fat bulb green garlic, green parts trimmed, outer layer removed
½ tsp coarse sea salt
1 egg yolk
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste.
Coarsely chop garlic and place in blender with olive oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, ginger, cardamom, orange zest, star anise, cinnamon, pepper and cloves. Blend mixture to a rough purée. In a bowl, toss the marinade with chicken wings and cover. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or, preferably, overnight.
Preheat the broiler to high. Use a paper towel to brush off most solids from marinade clinging to chicken, then arrange wings on a baking sheet. Broil until wings are golden brown and cooked through, about 5 minutes a side.
To prepare the aioli, finely chop garlic. Using a mortar and pestle, pound green garlic with salt until a paste forms. Add egg yolk and continue to pound paste until incorporated, then add oil drop by drop until a thick, shiny aioli is achieved. Stir in a few drops of lemon juice. Aioli can be prepared a day ahead; store it in the refrigerator. Serve wings with aioli for dipping.
©2008/The New York Times
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