Chef Notes: Loving Black Garlic

Chef Notes: Loving Black Garlic

From the moment I entered culinary school I knew I wanted to be a competitive chef. Within a few weeks of beginning school one of my classmates won the San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition. He spoke to the student body and really inspired me to follow my passion. I started hounding my chef instructors right away. Before long the school hosted an “Iron Chef” type competition. I led a team of four students but did not medal; we only qualified for a certificate of completion. Hey, give me a break, I had only been in school a couple of months and had never competed before.













A few months later, there was another student competition and this time we medaled, but for the life of me I can’t remember now if we got a bronze or silver, but an addiction was  born. I was on my externship at Fine Cooking Magazine when the call came to try out for the school’s representative at the 2010 San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition, Northeast Region. I was shocked when selected and the butterflies in my stomach started fluttering immediately–That level of anxiety is something I’ve come to dread and yet I can’t stay away from it for very long either. To make a long, rambling story short it was during the development of my dish for the Northeast Regional San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef competition that I was first introduced to Korean Black Garlic. It has since become a staple in my home. I use it in all kinds of dishes, not just those with an Asian inspiration.

Black Garlic is not a garlic variety. It is garlic that has been fermented under dry heat for about a month. The process turns the cloves black. The flavor is also drastically changed. It takes on a sweet balsamic/tamarind/liquorish flavor. The cloves become very soft and almost jelly like. It’s also reported to be seventeen times higher in antioxidants, and, according to Thailand myth, it can lead to immortality. Another great thing about black garlic is that it does not leave you with garlic breath. Believe me, I spread this stuff on crackers and eat it straight, and it’s a completely different animal.  So you’re probably wondering where to find it. The easiest place is online. I found a company that sells the whole heads or just the cloves. I usually order a tub of cloves, they’re easier to work with. It will keep for months in the refrigerator, just be sure to keep it in a sealed container or bag so they don’t dry out. Occasionally, you can also find it in high end markets or Asian groceries. There are a few recipes online for making your own but I can’t have my oven at 150 for thirty days at a time.

Some ideas for use are:

Black Garlic Bread

Asian Noodles

Asian soups

Beef Tenderloin with Black Garlic Paste

Grilled Salmon with Black Garlic Sauce

Mushrooms with Black Garlic Tart

Black Garlic Vinaigrette



My first competition in two years is this weekend.  The dish I’m preparing features game hen three ways. I’m using the thigh meat to make the sausage. As you can see, black garlic remains a star ingredient.

Pan Seared Breast with Jus Lie

Braised Leg and Sweet Baby Peppers Stuffed with Black Garlic Sausage

Pearl Couscous Pilaf

Ginger Carrot Coulis

Sautéed Baby Zucchini

Wasabi, Chive and Sesame Cracker

I have two practices left to perfect the recipes and get the plating just right.  I’ve already started losing sleep over it and the butterflies in my stomach are nonstop.  In fact, just writing about it makes the top of my head want to fly off.  Try the black garlic.  You’ll love it.  And keep your fingers crossed for me this Saturday, April 13 around 1:00 p.m. EST.  I’ll probably be just about to throw up.

Oh, by the way, the very first version of this dish won me that Northeast region San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition – because of the black garlic of course.

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  1. Randy Clements
    April 11, 16:34 Reply

    Good article. Well written. I LOVE black garlic. Thanks for the article. I love to just spread it on toast with butter or olive oil. The stuff is very difficult to find locally but worth the search.

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