The Mexican Cooking Trick For Roasting Garlic Faster

Soft, sweet, roasted garlic in 15 minutes. It's not only possible—it's the way they've been doing it in Mexico for years.

When I was writing a cookbook with Rick Bayless, there was one sentence I wrote so many times I started reciting it in my sleep. "Set a large skillet over medium heat," I'd say as I tossed and turned. "Lay in the garlic and roast, turning regularly, until soft and browned in spots."

Why did I write this sentence again and again? Because this step was in so many of the recipes that appear in the book. Bayless doesn't like the taste of raw garlic—he prefers the mellower flavor of roasted garlic instead. But the recipes in this book were all meant to be fast. So Rick turned to a stovetop method of roasting garlic, which emulates the low-and-slow oven method, but gets the job done in a fraction of the time.

The method is straightforward. Separate a head of garlic into cloves, but don't peel them. Set a skillet (I think cast-iron works best here, but anything will do) over medium heat, drop in your garlic cloves, and let the cloves cook. Shake the pan occasionally so that the cloves cook on all sides. In 15 minutes, the skins will be blackened, but the garlic inside will be soft and mellow.

This way of roasting garlic isn't specific to Rick Bayless; in Mexico, garlic has been cooked this way for centuries. The roasting of garlic in a dry pan essentially mimics cooking garlic on a comal. (Comals are simple, flat cooking surfaces that are often set over live fires or grills. They're basically griddles.) And garlic isn't the only thing cooked this way—chiles and onions and even tomatoes can be dry-roasted alongside the garlic.

Dry-roasted garlic cloves aren't exactly like what you get when you roast garlic in the oven. The garlic doesn't get quite as caramelized, and it isn't as buttery-soft. But when you need garlic for a salsa, or an omelet, or to chop up and stuff under chicken skin before roasting, this method can save you 40 minutes. And that's time you can spend however you like—including, if you like, writing the same sentence again. And again. And again.

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