Braised Green Garlic

In the late winter and early spring when fresh green garlic is in season, I use it a lot. As a precaution, I try to serve it to everyone around me, also. Here’s how I cook the garlic as a vegetable, starting with about three pounds or so.

Trim and wash it, and without trying to get every last drop, dry it off with a towel. Chop it crosswise into 1 cm. or 3/8ths in. pieces, a few stalks at a time.

Over a medium-high flame, melt in a very heavy 10″ pot three or four tablespoons of that wonderful Springhill Jersey butter (oo toasted sesame oil or a mixture of the two). When the sizzling has nearly completely subsided, start tossing in handfuls of the chopped garlic, beginning with the white stem pieces, at a rate sufficiently slow to prevent the temperature from dropping too much. Continue throwing in handfuls, stirring after each addition, until the last of the leaves are in and have started to cook.

Turn the flame to very low, splash in a quarter to a half cup of water or stock, give it a quick stir, and tightly cover the pot. You do not want to add too much liquid, as we are not going for boiled garlic here but rather garlic re-hydrated and steam-tenderized after the sautéing. A quarter cup of liquid should disappear pretty much instantaneously into all that garlic. After a couple of minutes or so, uncover the pot, stir well, and sample.  If the garlic isn’t tender, leave the pot on the very low flame for another couple of minutes and test again.  When it’s done push it onto the back side of the stove to stay warm until it’s served.

The leaves are the critical part because you want to cook them enough to soften them but not enough to dry them out. Also, they will cook a bit more from the heat of the pot after you have taken them off the fire. Even so, the dish is more forgiving than I’m making it sound. All it needs is a bit of salt (if your butter is unsalted or if you’re using sesame oil).

So get yourself out there to wherever you have to go (in the Bay Area, a farmers’ market) and buy some fresh green garlic this season (in the Bay Area, January – March. You owe it to yourself…not to mention whoever you’re sharing it with. And oh, it looks a lot like green onions and small leeks, so you have to look closely. One clue is that the green stems of onions are hollow, whereas the stems of leeks and green garlic are sometimes folded but closed along only one side and more commonly are just plain flat. I cannot discern a visual difference between baby leeks and fresh green garlic, so if there’s no sign i always confirm pinching off a taste of a leaf end or by asking. Well, it’s not quite as bad as asking for directions.

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