Life Skills: Garlic
I am convinced that chopping & sautéing garlic is a skill that can carry even the most novice home-cook’s meals from standard to spectacular. Growing up in an Italian-American household you just kind of pick up this knowledge from sitting at the counter watching your mom cook a pot of sauce or linguini with clams (or any other meal). Imagine my shock as a young adult to learn that not all of my friends possessed this knowledge. What to me seemed like something you were born with, was something some people had to actually learn!
Here’s the how:
1. Grab a chef’s knife.
2. Pull a garlic clove off of the bulb (don’t worry about the papery covering).
3. Chop off the flat end of the bulb.
4. Lay the wide part of your knife on top of the clove.
5. Holding the handle with your right hand, hit the wide part of the knife with the heel of your left hand. This will crush your clove.
6. Pull off the papery covering of the clove – it should come off with ease. If it doesn’t, hit it again.
7. Thinly slice the garlic – you can stop here for some recipes (anything that calls for sliced garlic).
8. With your knife on the cutting board in chopping position, put the heel of your left hand on top of the first third of the knife.
9. Using your left hand to anchor the knife, rock your right hand up and down, left and right, to chop the remainder of your garlic.
10. In a saucepan, heat oil on medium. When hot (a sprinkle of water in the pan will sizzle), add the garlic.
11. Move it around the pan with your spatula.
12. As soon as the garlic becomes fragrant, REMOVE IT FROM THE HEAT! It will continue to cook a bit more off the heat. Don’t ever trust anyone or any recipe that tells you to cook your garlic until brown.
A Simple Recipe for Your New Skill: Toss the oil and garlic with some spaghetti, adding salt and red pepper to taste. You’ve officially made Pasta Aglio Et Olio, an incredibly simple dish that sounded so luxurious as a child, that I never realized what a treat it was for my mom when we requested it!
To remove the smell of garlic from your hands, squeeze some lemon juice in a bowl of water, dip your fingers, and rinse. Though honestly, I’ll never understand why you’d want to remove such a beautiful fragrance. Something that adds so much flavor and heart, yet we insist on pretending it magically chopped itself right into our pans?
There’s nothing I love more about garlic than that sweet smell telling the story of the quiet moments of chopping, a lovingly prepared dinner, and a meal had with the people I love.