Saturday, March 7, 2009

Black Gold, Part Two

My previous post entitled Black Gold was about the bounty of black truffles that we had and still have in our walk-in (three pounds of Oregon black truffles are newly arrived this week). This post deals with another black gold that is just making its way onto the market: Black Garlic. And you see that it is truly black in this photo.

I first heard of it last fall via the chef grapevine when it hit the menus at Charlie Trotter's (we buy from a lot of the same vendors), but until just recently, it's been very hard for me to source, out here in the boonies like I am. This week I was able to get my first shipment and I now understand what the fuss is all about: it was love at first bite.

Black garlic is a cooked and fermented product that is everything that roasted garlic wants to be when it grows up. It is soft and sticky like candy, a little bit chewy in the same way that fudge has some tooth, supersweet but not cloyingly so like licorice root or Stevia, with a midpalate of molasses and a hint of licorice, and a lingering sweet garlic essence, everything that you want in garlic ice cream.

It is so good that I could eat $50 worth (yeah, it's still really expensive) just like candy. And although my mind is running at warp speed with visions of all kinds of sweet applications (e.g., black garlic-chocolate flan), my first foray with the garlic was to enrich a savory sauce and to use slices of the garlic as garnish on the dish.

We red-cooked local lamb shortribs (braised in soy, black vinegar, mirin, and duck stock with ginger, garlic, black pepper, star anise, cinnamon, and green onions), then strained the sauce, reduced it with brown sugar, and blitzed in black garlic with an immersion blender. Then we portioned the ribs and grilled them to order using the sauce as a barbeque glaze. The ribs were plated on a fried rice cake and garnished with more sauce, black garlic slices, white sesame seeds, and a scallion brush. Fantastic!

For more information, see the producer's web site and the Washington Post article Inventive Chefs and the Rise of an 'It' Ingredient.

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