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How to saute garlic without burning

July 19, 2009|By LYNNE ROSSETTO KASPER / Scripps Howard News Service

Dear Lynne: Solve a mystery for me, please. Verjuice -- what is it? I am a pretty sophisticated foodie, but this is a new one. What am I missing and is there a substitute? --Jerry in Lincoln

Dear Jerry: Verjuice is the juice of unripe grapes. It can be gently sweet or lean toward tart. Substitute a sweet-tart blend of grape juice and cider vinegar, or fruity white wine with a little vinegar. Use it instead of vinegar in salads (a good way to make salad wine-friendly), use it wherever wine is used for marinades and sauces, and pour it over fruit, or over ice with bubbly water for a summer tonic.

As far as being new, verjuice predates Christ, but it reminds me of the Rolling Stones -- just when you think they're done and gone, they come around again.

Verjuice has been recycling in and out of fashion since the first cultivated vines. When unripe green grapes were pruned away so that a few prime clusters could flourish, they were pressed and sent to the kitchen. No ancient or medieval cook could throw a banquet without verjuice sauces, bastes, desserts and drinks.


Dear Lynne: I love to cook, but I've been plagued by a garlic problem. My garlic always burns. I've tried having the pan hot, then adding the garlic and oil; I've tried adding them to a cold pan and then heating it up, but it always burns and tastes bitter. Can you help me out? -- Minnow in Los Angeles

Dear Minnow: I think I know what's happening.

The Problem: The recipes you are using probably say something like "...saute the onion, carrots and garlic until browned ..." The fact is, garlic burns quickly, so if you saute it with the other foundation ingredients, it will be burned by the time they're softened or browned.

The Cure: Always add the garlic after the onion or other ingredients have been sauteed as directed. Just stir it into the pan and cook for 30 seconds or so, protecting it from browning.

If you want to flavor the oil with garlic, but not burn it, do this: Warm the oil over medium-low heat, stir in the garlic and saute a few moments, pressing it with a wood spatula to release its flavors. Let it turn the palest blond and then use a slotted spoon to quickly sweep it out of the pan. Add it back to the finished dish if you'd like. That is Garlic 101. Garlic 202 is roasting or simmering big pieces of garlic until they are soft and have turned mellow and rich-tasting with all their sharpness gone. Here is how to test-drive that concept.


Serves 4 as a one-pan dinner.

Forty cloves of garlic turn this one-pan supper into utterly lush eating.

To make sure everything cooks at the same rate, thinly slice hard vegetables like the carrots and potatoes, while cutting the faster-cooking onions into thicker pieces.

If possible, use organic ingredients. There is a payback in flavors.

2 medium onions, sliced 1/2-inch thick
4 to 6 branches fresh thyme
2 4-inch branches fresh rosemary
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
A 3-3/4- to 4-1/2-pound chicken
4 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced on an angle
3 to 4 medium unpeeled red skin potatoes, scrubbed and thinly sliced
40 large unpeeled garlic cloves (about 3 heads)
About 1/3 cup good-tasting extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 to 1/3 cup verjuice, or 1/4 cup cider, sherry or wine vinegar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a half sheet pan or other large shallow roasting pan lay the onion slices in a single layer. Sprinkle them lightly with salt, pepper and some of the fresh herbs.

Butterfly the chicken by cutting along one side of the backbone. Open the chicken out flat, skin side up. With your palm, firmly press down the breast area to flatten. Place the bird skin side up atop the onions. Scatter the carrots, potatoes and garlic around it, along with the rest of the herbs. Sprinkle the olive oil and verjuice or vinegar over everything and finish with a light dusting of salt and pepper.

Roast the chicken about 80 minutes, basting it with pan juices, and turning the vegetables to evenly coat them with the pan juices as well. It is done when the center of the breast meat is 170 on an instant-reading thermometer and the vegetables are tender. If the chicken needs browning, flip on the broiler for a few minutes. If the vegetables need more roasting, remove the chicken, keep it warm and give them another 15 minutes in the oven.

Let the chicken rest 10 minutes at room temperature, then present it on a large platter with its pan juices and the vegetables. The garlic will be almost sweet; enjoy it by squeezing it out of the skins. Taste the garlic with a bite of chicken and vegetables.

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