Saturday, November 13, 2010
My family is loud.
When I was a kid, we would occasionally (for a birthday or no reason at all) go out to dinner all together -- me, my sister, our parents, my uncle, cousin, and our grandparents. We always had a blast.
The only trouble we ever had was finding a restaurant that could contain the GINORMOUS personalities seated (at least sometimes) at the table. My dad and uncle tell stories that cause uproarious laughter, my grandfather inevitably gets carried away joking around with our waitress (or waitressES -- we're what servers call "needy"), my grandmother and mom get into heated political discussions and too many desserts get ordered.
There were a few restaurants that could (would?) accommodate us, and while my sister and I didn't care where we went, we definitely had our favorites. One of which was a place in Mansfield, Conn., called Angellino's.
They served hearty Italian food and have HUGE portions. Their menu is a mix of classics, inventive and seasonal dishes, and has been for as long as I can remember. We never had a bad meal, and I've been back since childhood and it was just as good as it's always been.
We'd pile in, check out the menu and order, and like many carb-craving Italians were just as excited for the bread basket to arrive at the table as we were for the main dishes. That's because Angellino's serves a special little gem with their bread -- fresh oven-roasted garlic.
I'm not talking about a little clove in your olive oil, I'm talking BIG TIME. An entire head of garlic was included with your bread. You'd take a slice of bread, use the spreader to finagle a clove out of the papery wrapping and smear it onto the bread in all its fragrant goodness. It was magical.
It goes without saying -- check any entree recipe on this blog -- that I am a huge fan of garlic. Raw, cooked, minced, chopped, powdered, doesn't matter. I love it all. But as hot as the tawdry love affair has been... I do realize that there are people who DON'T like garlic. I call them "traitors," but for the sake of inclusion, we'll call them anti-garlicites. I won't pretend I understand it, but I'll accept it.
This is something even anti-garlicites may enjoy. It's not that it doesn't TASTE like garlic, but it's not the same texture. The oven-roasting brings out a sweetness and full-bodied flavor that raw and even sauteed garlic doesn't usually have.
I concede that cooking with garlic can leave your hands smelling of the stuff for days. It can get under your fingernails and sting a little. If you burn it even slightly, the smell and taste of it are horrid. It can cause less-than-pleasant breath. On the other hand, it keeps vampires away. I digress.
What was so awesome about Angellino's roasted garlic was that as much as I had loved the flavor my entire life, I'd never seen it become spreadable. I had to figure out how to do it, and once I did, I couldn't believe how simple it was.
A head of roasted garlic goes great with Italian bread, on a focaccia, or with pita bread. I've even used it to flavor hummus before. It takes a little time but minimal effort, and it is so unbelievably worth it.
Preheat oven to 425. Take a large head of garlic and cut the top off, exposing the tops of all cloves (leave the paper on).
Sit in a large piece of aluminum foil, and crunch it up to form a little package.
Before pinching the top closed, drizzle about two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over the top of the garlic head. Seal up package and sit directly on oven rack.
Allow to roast for 45 minutes. Use caution when removing the package from the oven as the foil will be the same temperature as the oven -- definitely use tongs. Allow the package to sit somewhere and cool off for about 10 minutes. Unwrap, serve with bread and a spreader -- enjoy!