Food and Drinks
Published: October 24, 2012
To start off this series, I was tempted to dive straight into some rigorous project like sous vide on the cheap or something, but I figured it might be more helpful to share some protips and handy shortcuts that I’ve acquired over my years behind the line (restaurant-speak for being stationed at the grill or saute section of the kitchen)—you know, ease into it, slow-like. This month’s theme: peeling garlic.
Method 1: Slowly press down hard on one or a few similarly-sized cloves with the heel of your hand, or with the side of a large knife, until the outer membrane(s) bursts open. When using a knife, place the knife’s side on top of the garlic, then press down with your hand on the other side. Swinging away with the knife will often cause the cloves to squirt out from under and the clove is likely to be damaged, which you may or may not want. If you plan on mincing the garlic anyway, smash the clove full force, but again, use hand on knife and smush down, don’t just whale on it.
Method 2: Soaking garlic cloves in cold water for about a half hour makes the skins much easier to slip off but keeps the cloves intact. My grandmother peeled garlic this way when she needed whole cloves for pickling.
Method 3: Nuke separated garlic cloves for five seconds. It’s not as reliable, perhaps dependent upon water content in particular varieties of garlic, but often this brief heating creates steam that helps separate the bulb from the peel.
Method 4: By far the awesomest way to peel many cloves of garlic at the same time. You need two large mixing bowls—the wider and shallower the better and metal seems to work best. Take a head’s worth of garlic cloves** and place in one of the bowls. Take the other bowl and invert it on top of the first one, forming an oblong spheroid, or something. Holding the sides together, shake your newly constructed garlic-agitation chamber as maniacally and as perpendicularly (you want the cloves to smack against the bottoms of the bowls) as you can for as long as you can or about 10 seconds. Many if not most of the cloves will be magically naked. Remove the peeled cloves and give it another go to try to get the more stubborn ones. Fun and dramatic.
* Bonus Protip 1: To reduce the intensity of garlic funk on your hands, rub them with any stainless steel surface—a knife blade, a pot or pan, or your sink. Something involving ions helps remove garlic and onion odors from your skin.
** Bonus Protip 2: To separate a whole head of garlic, place the bulb flat-side down on a cutting board. Then take a heavy flat object—cast iron pan, large hardcover book, a brick (essential kitchen tool, btw)—and press down vertically. All the cloves should spill out from under.
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