Properly roasted garlic is a thing of beauty: golden, caramelized cloves densely packed into nature's own suitcase and glistening with a faded sheen of olive oil. Simple, straightforward, breathtaking. But even more important than the stunning exterior is the strapping flavor. Whether spread simply on bread or glazed over meats and pastas, roasted garlic adds a distinct muscle power. It's much softer and milder than raw garlic, yet still pungent enough to ward off mosquitoes, vampires and sleazebags. And good news -- making your own is really quite easy.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel away the flaky outer layers of the garlic skin, leaving the actual bulbs intact. Using a knife, cut off about 1/2 inch of the bulb's pointed crown, exposing all of the individual cloves of garlic within. Place the bulbs in a baking pan -- muffin tins work well, but any old baking sheet works just fine. Drizzle about a teaspoon of olive oil over each bulb, then use your fingers to work the oil into the cloves. Make sure the garlic heads are well-coated. Cover with aluminum foil, and roast at 400 degrees for 50-60 minutes, or until the cloves are browned and soft to the poke. Remove from oven and allow the garlic to cool slightly.
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Our favorite use for roasted garlic is also the simplest: Use a cocktail fork to shimmy the gloves from their casings, or pick them out with a knife. Spread the now-velvety garlic over warm, lightly buttered slices of French bread for a winning appetizer. Other uses? Mash with a fork and use for cooking, of course. Mix with a bit of sour cream and add to potatoes, or toss with cooked pasta and a little Parmesan, cream, and thyme. Add to flatbread pizzas, beef tenderloin, or wheat crackers... The possibilities are nearly limitless. If you're not using the garlic immediately, store it in airtight container. Add just enough olive oil to cover, and keep in the refrigerator. Roasted garlic will last for about a week.