Subtle, savory black magic: Linguine with Mushrooms and Black Garlic

by Terry B on August 18, 2010

Fermented black garlic, the mysterious ingredient that’s been exciting chefs for a couple of years, is now showing up in grocery stores. Here it works with just a handful of ingredients to create a rich, satisfying vegetarian meal. Recipe below.

mushroom-black-garlic-linguine

Umami. That savory, meaty fifth taste, only recently named. That’s what I smelled when I opened the bag containing two heads of black garlic. The smell of a really good consomme or perhaps the browned bits in the bottom of the pan after searing a roast.

blackgarlic-savoryspiceshopThe funny thing is, the only ingredients in black garlic are garlic, heat and time. No meat, no salt, no stock—nothing to impart that almost meaty scent. I can’t remember now where I first heard of black garlic, but it so fascinated me that I wrote about it for this week’s USA Character Approved Blog post. And I had to cook with it.

Fermented black garlic’s flavor is a mix of sweet, molasses-like caramelization, with definite tangy garlic undertones (but milder and more subtle than regular garlic) and the elusive umami taste, a taste “of the earth.” Some suggest one good way to eat it is simply smooshed and smeared on crackers or little toasts. We tried that. It wasn’t bad, but to us, black garlic seems more of an ensemble player that adds something wonderful to a finished dish, but on its own is lacking something.

As I thought about what to do with this exotic ingredient, I kept coming back to simple recipes that would let the garlic’s taste shine through. After all, that was what I wanted to taste in the dish. In the end, I settled on pasta with a handful of ingredients—good quality olive oil, mushrooms, shallots, black pepper—and some fresh basil and Parmesan added at the very end. It was quite good, if I say so myself, and unlike any other thing we’ve eaten.

Linguine with Mushrooms and Black Garlic
Serves 2

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
a very generous grind of black pepper
6 to 8 ounces sliced mushrooms (I used baby bellas)
8 cloves black garlic, peeled and sliced (see Kitchen Notes)
1 medium to large shallot, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
salt, to taste
freshly grated Parmesan

8 ounces uncooked linguine (or other ribbon pasta)

Start a large pot of water to cook linguine. When water boils, start cooking pasta (which should take 9 to 10 minutes—check package instructions). As pasta cooks, heat olive oil in a large, deep nonstick skillet over a medium flame. Grind black pepper into the oil as it heats. Add mushrooms and black garlic to pan and toss to coat with oil. Cook for about 5 minutes, then reduce heat to medium low and add shallot to pan. Cook, stirring frequently—you want to sweat the shallot, not brown it.

When pasta is done cooking (keep it on the al dente side—it will continue to cook when added to the mushroom garlic mixture), turn off the heat under the skillet. Drain the pasta, reserving a half cup or so of the cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the skillet and toss to combine. Add the basil and toss. Season with salt to taste. If the pasta is too dry (ours wasn’t), add some reserved pasta water, a couple of tablespoons at a time.

Divide the pasta into two pasta bowls. You’ll likely get a lot of pasta in the bowls at first and leave mushrooms, garlic and shallots in the pan. That’s perfect, because you can then spoon them over the tops of the bowls. Top with freshly grated Parmesan and serve.

Kitchen Notes

Working with black garlic. Although it’s never been roasted, the fermenting process softens this garlic greatly. You can peel the sticky, tarry cloves with your fingers. Use a really sharp knife to slice them or you’ll end up smashing them.

Now that we’ve had black garlic in a starring role, we’re eager to try it as more of a bit player. Marion suggested roasting or braising some meat and letting black garlic flavor the liquid, spooning it over the cooking meat. I’m ready to have some right now.

Find out more about black garlic. Read about it in my USA Character Approved Blog post.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

joan Nova August 18, 2010 at 1:04 pm

I haven’t tried black garlic yet so your primer here is especially helpful for when I do get my hands on it. I agree with Marion – think it would be great in some braising liquid.

City Share August 18, 2010 at 5:54 pm

I too have heard about black garlic, but never tried. Thanks for the introduction and recipe. We will have to give it a try. Where did you find it?

Terry B August 18, 2010 at 6:45 pm

Joan—The more I think about it, this sounds like a fabulous use of black garlic. I think it would add a nice mysterious what’s-that-flavor quality, much as the anchovies do in my Provencal Layered Pot Roast with Anchovies, Capers and Garlic. Of course, we’re big fans of wintry braised dishes.

City Share—Sorry, I should have mentioned that, shouldn’t I? I found it at Whole Foods; they’ve carried it for a couple of months or so now. Two whole heads of black garlic will set you back five or six bucks. You can also buy it online for about the same amount, but will then have to pay shipping.

Susan Campisi August 18, 2010 at 9:33 pm

Your comment on Altadena Hiker made me laugh so I thought I’d check your blog out. Glad I did. Yum! I haven’t tried black garlic yet but I love pasta, mushrooms, and garlic so I’m looking forward to trying this recipe. I also love good writing about food so I’ll be back…

altadenahiker August 18, 2010 at 11:06 pm

Smart girl, Susan.

So T & M, I thought I could save a few bucks and make my own black garlic, since I (she said with a conceited smirk) grow and cure my own garlic anyway. Do you know (and I’m sure you do), it has to roast untouched in the oven for 40 days? Suddenly, $6 a head (no, two heads!) seems like quite a deal.

Dani H August 19, 2010 at 5:13 am

This is a recipe for a pasta dish that makes my mouth water. Although Marion’s idea of using the black garlic in a braising liquid sounds good, too. Thanks for the exposure to a new food and recipe and suggestions! Hope your week is going well.

Terry B August 19, 2010 at 3:24 pm

Thanks, Susan! The fact that you found me on Altadena Hiker’s blog tells me you do indeed love good writing of all sorts.

Altadenahiker—I’m thinking the process of fermenting black garlic is not actually roasting so much as kind of running a high fever for a long time. But yeah, even if you could do it, would you be able to do it for three bucks a head—and would you want to?

Dani—We have one more head of black garlic left and are looking forward to the next cool spell to do some nice braisy roasty thing with it.

Laura [What I Like] August 19, 2010 at 9:00 pm

What a great reminder this is! I read about black garlic somehwere a while back and was totally jazzed to cook with it but for some reason never tracked it down, probably because I knew that I would’t know what to do with it when I found it. But now I do, so I’m on the hunt!

ButterYum August 22, 2010 at 12:18 am

Black garlic is a totally new concept to me. Thanks for sharing the info.

:)
ButterYum

rachel August 22, 2010 at 3:23 am

never heard about this and so this was an enlightener!

Angela@spinachtiger August 23, 2010 at 3:46 am

Since i like creamy mushroom soup, I’m thinking black garlic might like cream also.

Terry B August 23, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Laura—Yeah, black garlic is suddenly popping up a lot of places. It was recently featured on Top Chef, and someone at the USA Character Approved Blog was delighted that we had scooped them with my post. I’ll be interested to see what you do with it.

Thanks, ButterYum and Rachel!

You know, Angela, I had actually toyed with adding a little cream to the sauce right at the end. I bet it would be delicious, further mellowing the garlic flavor.

Half Assed Kitchen August 30, 2010 at 2:13 am

We love garlic of any color. :)

Terry B August 31, 2010 at 3:27 pm

We’re huge fans of garlic too, HAK. It’s a rare dinner that doesn’t include garlic in at least one dish.

Judy September 1, 2010 at 2:47 am

Pasta’s such a brilliant way of letting such an intense ingredient shine through. having read your description of its umami-ness, i seem to thoroughly rebel against the idea of pairing this ingredient with meats – two heady flavours that might knock each other out rather than build a stairway to heaven. i’m intrigued, and should be on a hunt for this over the weekend!

owenhu August 1, 2012 at 11:10 am

yep, black garlic is a new product, as it is come out only from 2008 in Japan, that is a very good nice food, creekbay black garlic can offer you all info about it, how to eat, and how to to make it,

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