Remember when you were a kid and you got to put on your first pair of tiny dress-up heels? Even better than your double-buckle Mary Janes, you actually felt like a mini-adult allowed into the grown-up club?
That’s how I felt the first time I ever ate roasted garlic. Never one to plan a trip without a good meal or five, my dad chose the French standby Bistro 110 (RIP), just off Michigan Avenue, as a lunch destination during a quick weekend trip to Chicago.
Along with the customary sliced baguettes and creamy butter (something I always indulged in during any restaurant visit, as our fridge was oddly dependent on the Country Crock for such a foodie household), the server left a bulb of roasted garlic at the table while we studied the menus.
Honestly, I’m not sure I’d ever seen an entire bulb of garlic before this point, so it was a true revelation when Dad showed my sister and I how to scoop the golden elixir out of the papery husks and spread it on bread just like my longed-for butter.
This wasn’t the sharp, nostril-singeing garlic that I sometimes found nestled in the antipasto platter or chopped into my linguini with clams, nor was it the metallic powdery garlic that my grandma sometimes shook onto our garlic bread before sliding it under the broiler. This was mellow, smooth, rich.
If I’d known what foie gras was at this point in my food career (ha, fat chance), I’d have realized I found its vegetarian equivalent, but my teenage tastebuds were years away from such metaphors.
Piling my pungent bounty on the crusty round slivers, feeling oh-so-cosmopolitan at our sidewalk cafe table in the heart of the Magnificent Mile, surrounded by the stately limestone water towers that survived the bovine-induced inferno of 1871—with each bite of the garlic puree, I was understanding the secret of what good food was really all about.
Though I never went back to Bistro 110 after those first family trips—there was always another new gastropub to try, another burger I need to find, another bar to explore—it was always comforting to see the familiar script lettering of its sign every time I wandered down the Mag Mile.
I’ll miss it, but now I can make as much roasted garlic as I want at home. I’ll throw a foil-wrapped head into the oven while I’m baking other meals, or just do it in my countertop toaster oven on its own. Hell, you can also do this on the grill in the summer months.
- 1 head garlic
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 350˚. Take a piece of aluminum foil long enough to encompass the head of garlic and fold it in half so it’s double-layered and can better insulate the garlic.
With a serrated knife, slice off the tip of the garlic head so that the cloves are exposed and place in the middle of the aluminum foil square. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and wrap in the foil, sealing tightly but leaving a bit of breathing room around the garlic inside its silver package.
Roast for 45 minutes to an hour or until the garlic cloves are spreadably soft and golden brown. Take care when opening the foil package—any escaping steam will burn.
Let cool for 10 minutes before peeling and squeezing out the softened cloves, unless you have more heat-resistant fingers than I do.