I finally figured out a use for one of those big bags of pre-peeled garlic. Although I'm fond of the "smelly rose," I hate peeling the paper skins off them. Prepped cloves seem to show up in industrial portions so, cooking for only one, at least half the cloves always got green and fuzzy in my fridge before I could use them.
Munching thoughtfully on a flake that had browned in the bottom of a pan, it hit me: Fry the stuff up and use it on top of my salads. So, in true mad scientist fashion, I set up a program of experimentation. Lots of folks liked the products of my experiments. Even some I deemed less than successful. Here, I share my findings.
Uniformity of slice thickness is important. Although I take pride in my kitchen knife skills, I bought a mandolin to ensure all the slices cook in the same time. It also makes the process go much more quickly. I haven't found a mandolin with a pusher that works on this small scale. So I wear a cut-resistant glove to really get down there but avoid coloring the food red. I save the little stubs for other things.
I like olive oil for this. You want enough oil to cover/float the garlic using a frying pan like a shallow deep-fat fryer. To fry up half a bag, I use about half an inch in the bottom of my 10-inch fry pan. Have everything set up to strain out the oil before you start heating your pan, as you won't be able to stop in the middle. Keep a plate covered with paper towels close by so you can easily transfer the chips from the sieve. I reserve the cooled oil for cooking as it is nicely garlic flavored and refrigerates well.
Once your slices are in the oil, never stop stirring — even the best pots have hot spots. And keep close watch. The difference between done and overdone — which yields a bitter aftertaste — is less than 20 seconds.
1 cup olive oil, or enough to fill a medium to large frying pan ½ inch deep
Peeled garlic cloves, rinsed and patted dry
Cut the root end off all the cloves you intend to fry. Using the thinnest setting on my mandolin (1⁄16 inch is perfect), slice them all up, cross grain to make tiny ovals.
Place the slices in a bowl, salt them thoroughly and let sit for a few minutes to absorb before cooking.
Cover a heat-resistant plate with a couple of layers of paper towel to absorb excess oil. Have a couple more sheets handy to press down on top of the cooling chips. Have a fine mesh sieve and a small canning jar or can ready in the sink to receive the hot used oil.
Heat the oil over a medium-high burner until bubbles gather around a wooden spoon handle or chopstick when dipped into the pan (around 325 F). I usually sprinkle a few drops of water in the oil; when it starts to really sizzle, it's ready to go.
Add the sliced garlic to the oil as quickly as possible to ensure equal cooking time for all the pieces.
Stir the garlic gently and don't stop until it's done, which may take as long as 5 minutes. The idea is to circulate all the pieces throughout the pan for even cooking.
Quit about 10 seconds before you think you should — the chips keep cooking even after you remove them from heat. I look for a uniform light tan color. Using the sieve, strain the oil into the canning jar or can and let it cool.
Spread the garlic chips on the paper towels and blot them with a couple more sheets. Allow them to cool, tossing and mixing them a bit to reduce clumping. Store in a sealed container in the fridge. They last for weeks, if not longer.
When Anthony Westkamper isn't experimenting in the kitchen, he's shooting and writing about insects for his weekly HumBug column at www.northcoastjournal.com.