I'll answer the first question, and this recipe will give you at least one answer to the second one. There are MANY ways to use it and a few of them will be coming to this blog soon.
So, to answer the question about what black garlic is, I'll start by saying what it is NOT. It is not a type of garlic that you can grow in the garden or pick up fresh at the farmer's market. You may find it there, but it's not freshly picked in the same way as "normal" garlic is.
Black garlic has to be MADE. It is not, as some websites may tell you, fermented. I can say this with some authority since I have made literally hundreds of bulbs of it this year alone. It is created by a very long, very slow roasting process. It involves a special machine and a lot of time. The traditional roasting process takes 44 days to complete. There is NOTHING added to it - no spices, no liquids, it is nothing but garlic.
Now, here's something a bit harder to describe. How does it taste? Let me start by asking a question. Have you ever had caramelized onions? If so, you know that the end product is much sweeter and much more mild than a raw onion. The same thing is true of black garlic. Because it has been roasted for such a long time, it turns pitch black, has a very soft jelly-like consistency, and is very sweet and mild. We spend a lot of time with the public, having them taste our products, black garlic being one of the most popular. We have heard many different descriptions of the taste, but some of the most common are that it tastes like balsamic, fig, or Worcestershire sauce. It is full of umami (a Japanese term to describe our fifth sense of taste, along with sweetness, sourness, bitterness and saltiness) and adds an amazing flavor to just about everything.
So much for the introduction to black garlic.
On to the recipe.
Because we love the taste of black garlic, I wanted different ways to use it. On the back of the bags of black garlic we sell, we tell you how to make a black garlic dipping oil. It's amazing, but very simple. It had to be in order to fit the recipe on the bag.
As much as I love simple, I also love to cook. I love complex flavors and the feeling of being in the kitchen for awhile and creating something incredible and unique from simple ingredients. It takes me back to the days of being in my mother's or grandfather's kitchen when I was very young. It seemed like a form of magic to me when they would take the most simple and basic of ingredients and an hour later there would be an amazing meal on the table with smells and flavors that stick with me to this day. This recipe duplicates that feeling for me. Yes, it has some ingredients that are not quite so common; however that feeling of magic that hits me when you are able to create something out of simple things still makes me feel like a little kid again.
That's really just a complicated way of saying we wanted more ways to use black garlic. This has become one of our favorite ways of using it. I have another risotto recipe here on my blog and I love it, but I love this one more. I also have a recipe here for risotto cakes. You can use the risotto from this recipe to make the cakes and, as my wife says, they are orgasmic. If the look on her face as she eats them is any indication, she's right. ;o)
- 4 1/2 cups vegetable stock
- 8 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 sweet yellow onion, minced
- 6-8 finely chopped cloves black garlic (The number of cloves varies because of the size of the cloves and according to personal taste. Also, because black garlic is very soft and sticky, it is sometimes easier to smash the cloves with a fork than it is to chop.)
- 2 cups dry arborio rice
- 1 cup white wine
- 8 ounces fresh portobello mushrooms, sliced*
- 1 teaspoon porcini mushroom powder* (though this is optional, it really enhances the flavor)
- 1/2 teaspoon powdered rosemary* (though this is optional, it really enhances the flavor)
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 4 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
*optional (Yes, I called this recipe black garlic and mushroom risotto. If you don't like mushrooms, just leave the mushrooms out and call it black garlic risotto!)
- Pour the stock into a pot, bring to a boil, and turn down to a simmer.
- In a separate pan, melt 3 tablespoons of butter.
- Add the powdered rosemary and porcini powder.
- Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the mushrooms. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Cook on medium low until the mushrooms are tender (about four minutes).
- In a large, heavy skillet, melt 3 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Add the onion and cook until translucent.
- Stir in the black garlic.
- Stir in the rice.
- Add the wine. Stirring constantly, reduce until all the liquid is evaporated and rice grains have a glassy translucency.
Notice that the ends of the rice are starting to become translucent. This is
when the wine should be evaporated and it's time to start adding the stock.
- Pour a cup of simmering stock into the rice. Cook and stir constantly until the stock is evaporated, then add another cup of stock.
- Continue cooking and stirring and adding stock until the rice is soft but firm.
- Add the mushroom base to the rice mixture. Stir in the Parmesan, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, and the mascarpone.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.