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Head of the Class

How roasted garlic’s funky cousin made the allium A-list

Author Jolyon Helterman

garlicAs cooking shows do their darn­dest to demystify every trick in the culinary playbook, “it” ingredients rise and fall at breakneck speeds (see: bee pollen). One trendy foodstuff gaining rare traction among top toques: black garlic, which gets its color and pungent flavor from a fermentation that can last a month or more.

“It adds a funkiness, and a certain amount of umami and unctuousness that you don’t get elsewhere,” says Phillip Foss, who uses black garlic with everything from scallops to lamb at his Chicago eatery EL Ideas. Meanwhile, chef Eric Ripert of Manhattan’s legendary Le Bernardin praises what a black garlic emulsion or purée can bring to seafood—specifically, “a subtle garlic flavor with sweetness, a tiny bit of smokiness and a little licorice finish.”

For “Top Chef” champ Michael Voltaggio, the magic is in the mystery. Diners at his buzzy L.A. restaurant, Ink, struggle to pinpoint the taste. “The roasted garlic undertones are familiar, but the flavor is more like aged balsamic or molasses,” Voltaggio says, adding that he’s always waiting for the inevitable question: “What is that?”

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