By the mid-eighties, the “roasted garlic” that I introduced to California at Chez Panisse 12 years previously had spread far and wide in the United States. Unfortunately, most of the time it was not understood properly, because chefs were using any old garlic that was available. Roasting older garlic makes an indigestible puree so potent that it might as well be raw. So please use the most glorious garlic of all, which is the first crop in spring–when the cloves are fresh and white with pink and purple streaks through the outer leaves, the stems are green and soft, and the aroma of the garlic is mild and sweet.
Both this spring garlic puree and the poached garlic puree described at right can be held in the refrigerator in a sealed jar for a week.
Preheat the oven to 300°F.
Rub the garlic heads with the oil. Strew the thyme in a heavy baking dish just large enough to hold the garlic in a single layer. Place the garlic on the thyme and season with salt and pepper. Cover with foil and bake until the garlic cloves are just soft when you squeeze them, 30 to 45 minutes.
Take the garlic out of the baking dish. Squeeze the puree from each clove and mash with a fork, or put them through a food mill to make a puree. Discard the skins. Cover any unused puree tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
© 2003 Jeremiah Tower. All rights reserved.