I confess: I'm hooked on cooking shows. It all began a long, long time ago with those grainy black-and-white Julia Child episodes, and trickled along through The Galloping Gourmet, The Frugal Gourmet, Yan Can Cook, and more whose names I have forgotten. Currently, of course, I'm hooked on Iron Chef and all the Top Chef variations. I've even dipped my toe into Fat Chef and Worst Cooks in America (and pulled that toe right out again!).
Why? The obvious answer is, I love to eat and I love to cook (or is that two answers?). Since I mastered (mistressed?) the basic skills needed to produce edible and reasonably tasty food a long time ago, now I watch for new ideas and techniques—and use them. I doubt that I'll ever have a sous vide apparatus in my kitchen, or a blast chiller, or use recipes that call for liquid nitrogen (although my husband uses it at work, so I could get some…), but I do have a food mill, an immersion blender, and a blow torch (for the essential crème brulée, of course).
I also look for new ingredients and ways to use them. After living in the San Francisco Bay area with their fabulous food markets for a decade, I thought nothing could surprise me. And then I learned of . . . black garlic.
No, it doesn't grow that way. It's regular garlic, fermented (as a whole head) in a patented machine under controlled heat and humidity and then dried. The result is squishy, truly black garlic cloves laden with antioxidants. It's the new star of the gourmet cooking circuit—and I had never tasted it.
And was worried that I never would, because it's so new it's not in many cookbooks, and even the recipes online were few and far between. But I am determined! I wanted to cook something that would showcase whatever flavor the garlic provided, rather than using it solely for its novelty value. That more or less dictated pasta or chicken, and I had chicken breasts, so here's my recipe (a mingling of several different recipes, with a bit of common sense thrown in).
Obviously you'll need black garlic. I haven't seen it in any stores, but it's available for order online. If you don't want to buy a pig in a poke (without taking it for a test drive), I can tell you that the garlic is mild, subtle, and slightly sweet in flavor—don't be scared! And no lingering garlic breath!
CHICKEN WITH BLACK GARLIC
3 Tblsp butter
3 Tblsp flour
6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
3-4 chicken breasts (depending on size; you may use either boneless, skinless breasts or the whole thing)
1 large or 2 small shallots
2 cloves black garlic, sliced
1½ cups chicken stock
Fresh thyme, tarragon, or other herb of your choice
½ cup heavy cream
Oil and butter for sautéing
Salt and pepper to taste
In a small pan, make a roux: melt the butter, add the flour and combine well, and cook, stirring often, for a few minutes on low heat. Set aside.
Peel and cube the potatoes. Bring salted water to a boil in a large pan, add the potatoes and boil gently until the potatoes are cooked through (when a knife pierces them easily). Drain well and set aside, keeping them warm.
Add a thin layer of oil and a pat of butter in a pan and sauté the chicken breasts. Sear both sides but don't cook them through (this will take only a few minutes if you're using boneless breasts). Set them aside.
Chop your shallot(s), and sauté briefly in the same pan you used for the chicken. Deglaze the pan with half a cup of the chicken stock (you may substitute wine for part of the stock), then add the black garlic slices and the herb(s). Return the chicken breasts to the pan and baste with the juices. Cover and simmer gently until the chicken is cooked through.
When the chicken is cooked, remove the pieces from the pan and keep warm while you make the sauce. In the sauté pan, mash the garlic with a fork. Strain the liquid (you can skip this if you don't mind a messy-looking sauce), then add the roux you made earlier and blend well. Thin the sauce with the cream. Taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper if needed.
Assemble the chicken pieces and the potatoes on plates and pour the sauce over them.
Okay, the sauce looks like gravy—but it tastes a whole lot better! My family all but licked the plates.