Food

MY KITCHEN IN SPAIN: GETTING CHEFFY WITH GARLIC

 

Ajo morado–purple garlic–the best variety.

In my news feed this week was the announcement of the winners of the contest for best dish made with purple garlic. The chefs’ competition was the culmination of the XLVIII Feria Internacional del Ajo in Las Pedroñeras (Cuenca, Castilla-La Mancha), the “garlic capital of Spain.”

The winner, Antonio González of Restaurante+Ideas (Higueruela, Albacete) created a dish called “Ajo Morado Pedroñero.” The photo depicted an out-size head of garlic on a plate, with no indication of what it was confected. No recipe, no description of ingredients.

I did find a recipe for a winner from a previous year, “Crema Helada de Ajo Morado,” by Federico Guajardo of Sal de Mar (Denia, Alicante). Crema helada de ajo morado asado, gamba ahumada, romesco y gelé de agua de pimiento asado. Frozen garlic cream, smoked shrimp, romesco sauce with smoked olive oil and gelée of roasted pepper. (See Chef Federico’s original recipe here.) 

The recipe looked doable—until I checked the list of tools required. Besides a grill, various knives and pots and pans were Thermomix, a Roner and a Pacojet, three very cheffy appliances. And, in the ingredient list were xantham gum and agar agar.

It’s always fun to try something above my pay grade, so I decided to have a go, adapting the recipe to the limitations of a home kitchen and family meals. Instead of artistically plating the cream with its accoutrements, I dolloped it as a garnish in a bowl of gazpacho (in this case, store-bought gazpacho poured from a carton). I added cooked, not smoked, shrimp; diced red pepper and smoked pimentón instead of the romesco and pepper gelée. My own touch was to add thin strips of mojama, air-dried tuna. 

Chilled gazpacho is garnished with scoops of frozen garlic cream, shrimp, chopped roasted red pepper and pieces of mojama, air-dried tuna. 

Full disclosure: I used store-bought gazpacho. Some brands are pretty good and I don’t have any garden tomatoes to make my own. The frozen garlic cream turns it into something special!

Scoops of frozen garlic cream.

The Roner, what the chef used to make the roasted garlic oil, is the original sous vide device (invented by Gerona chefs, Joan Roca and Nora Caner). It uses a precision temperature thermal circulator to cook vacuum-sealed foods at low temperature. I simply cooked the roasted garlic in olive oil at a very low temperature, swirling the pan occasionally. 

The Pacojet, a Swiss-made device, is “a $4000 ice cream machine” that turns a frozen block into creamy-smooth puree in an instant. I used a blender to break down the ice crystals in the partially-frozen puree. And, instead of xanthan gum, an ingredient used in professional kitchens to produce extra-smooth emulsions, I used a little cornstarch. 

A Thermomix is a food processor/blender that also cooks. In the chef’s recipe, it was used to make the romesco sauce that was emulsified with olive oil that had been smoked by infusing it with a twig of charred grapevine. I skipped the romesco sauce, which, in any case, is easily made in a regular blender. I also passed on the gelée made with the liquid from roasted bell pepper, for which I might have needed agar agar to set the gelée (although gelatin would work too). 

The frozen garlic cream was a success. But, I could use some chef’s help with my food styling!

Gazpacho with Frozen Garlic Cream

Gazpacho con Crema Helada de Ajo Morado

You will not need all of the roasted garlic oil for this recipe. Use the remainder for salads or to baste a roast chicken.

The frozen garlic cream can be used while still creamy-soft. If allowed to freeze solid, unless you have a Pacojet, it needs to soften before scooping. Besides gazpacho, the frozen garlic cream would complement other cold soups such as vichyssoise and borscht. 

Grill garlic, peel cloves.

For the Roasted Garlic Oil:

2 heads purple garlic

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Roast the whole heads of garlic on a grill or over coals until outer skin is charred. Remove. When cool enough to handle, remove the outer skin. Slit open each garlic clove and carefully peel off the skin. 

Place the garlic cloves in a small saucepan and add the oil. Heat the oil until it just begins to bubble. Reduce heat to Warm setting, maintaining the oil at 175ºF. For 30 minutes. Strain the oil into a jar. (If desired, save the roasted garlic for another use.)

For the Garlic Cream:

4 ounces queso fresco de cabra (fresh white goat cheese)

½ cup roasted garlic oil (recipe above)

2 cloves garlic

1 ¼ cups cream

2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons water

Pinch of salt

Whisk garlic cream.

Break up the goat cheese and place it in a blender or food processor with the oil.

Peel the garlics, crush them lightly and place in a small saucepan with the cream. Heat until the cream begins to bubble. Reduce heat and cook on low for 5 minutes. Strain out the garlics and return the cream to the saucepan. Place on medium heat. Stir the cornstarch and water together. Whisk the cornstarch into the cream and whisk until the cream is slightly thickened. Add the salt. Remove from the heat and pour the cream over the cheese and oil.

Blend or process until the cheese-cream mixture is very smooth. Pour into a metal container and freeze until very stiff. Beat the mixture again in blender or processor until smooth and return it to the freezer until ready to serve.

(To facitiltate serving, when the garlic cream is partially frozen, scoop up spoonfuls and place them on a lightly oiled plate and freeze. Lift them off the plate and into bowls.)

Place garnishes, add gazpacho.

For the gazpacho:

3 cups chilled tomato gazpacho

4-6 cooked shrimp

Roasted red bell peppers or canned pimiento, diced

Thin strips of mojama (salt-dried tuna)

Scoops of frozen garlic cream

Pimentón de la Vera (smoked paprika), to serve

Roasted garlic oil, to serve

Divide the shrimp between individual shallow bowls. Sprinkle with diced pepper and strips of mojama. Add a scoop of garlic cream to each bowl. 

Very carefully pour gazpacho around the shrimp and garlic cream. Sprinkle with pimentón and drizzle a little garlic oil over the top of the gazpacho. Or, simply fill the bowls with gazpacho, add the scoops of garlic cream and other garnishes.

Fantasy gazpacho! On a second serving, I added everything to the gazpacho–frozen garlic cream, diced avocado, chopped guindillas (pickled chilies), corn kernels, red pepper, shrimp, cilantro. We loved it!

Las Pedroñeras—literally, “rockville”—is a village southeast of Madrid, smack in the middle of Don Quixote country. The village lays claim to the title of Spain’s capital of garlic. A single growers’ cooperative in the town, San Isidro el Santo, produces in one season more than 15 million kilos of garlic. Most of it is the esteemed ajo morado, purple garlic, a variety of hard-necked garlic that has papery white layers enclosing cloves shrink-wrapped in violet skins. Purple garlic is both sweet and pungent, with a powerful bite. The purple garlic of Las Pedroñeras has an official IGP (protected geographic designation). 

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