Roasted garlic is one of the most sensual flavors I have ever come across. It adds a unique richness and depth anywhere it is included—from potatoes and crostini to custards and vinaigrettes, just to name a few of my favorites.
While roasting whole garlic heads is a fantastic way to achieve this nutty, creamy deliciousness, I have come to use a different method with significant advantages: making garlic confit.
“Confit” comes from the French word confire, which literally means to preserve. Traditionally, this method entails submerging something in oil. It is simmered gently and then kept in the oil to preserve it. Air is the primary enemy of food, causing rapid decomposition. Submerging food in oil cuts off all air, thus preserving the food. When you add refrigeration, this is a fantastic way to keep food for more extended periods. You can cook the garlic in oil until they caramelize and then stored it in that oil. I have kept these refrigerated and submerged in oil for over a month with no deterioration
You will get a very similar flavor to roasted garlic while getting a much better yield because you lose a lot when you squeeze roasted cloves out of the heads.
Another plus: With confit, you can control how much you cook the garlic. You can just cook the garlic until softened to eliminate the sharpness and achieve a mellow garlic flavor without the nuttiness of caramelization. There is an excellent use for this in the vegan diet as you can puree garlic confit and use it to thicken sauces and give them a cream-like consistency.
The garlic oil will also come in handy for brushing on bread to make croutons or for sautéing vegetables.
I find garlic confit to be a great, versatile addition to any refrigerated pantry. Feel free to use it in a vegetable sauté, toss it into pasta, or add it to mashed potatoes.