Three bulbs of garlic. Three varieties. One question: what do they taste like, and how different are they? Our local market, Corti Brothers, trotted out their garlic collection for 2011 with over a dozen varieties of the stinking bulb from which we selected three.
The method: one clove separated from its mother bulb, sliced, placed in a labeled saucer. Raw. Then, sauteed briefly until they showed just a hint of color.
Raw: Initial taste hot, then a bit grassy moving on to a mellow finish.
Cooked: A nice garlic hit without being too assertive, its heat mellowed a lot with cooking. These would be great for garlic chips, if they were bigger. With a bit of salt, these were pleasant to munch straight.
Raw: Initially hot, a bit more so than the Xi'an but still not overpowering. A similar grassiness to the middle flavor, tapering to a mellow finish.
Cooked: Another candidate for garlic chips, although a bit more powerful than the Xi'an. Still, a mellow bulb with perhaps a bit earthier flavor than its Chinese cousin.
Raw: Aie! Ca pique! This one comes on strong with an attack of garlicky heat backed by a bit of a sour note. Once you get over the initial heat, there's a lot of flavor - but that burn will be there all the way into the finish.
Cooked: The heat's still there, although mellowed a bit. The other, mellower garlicky flavors are more pronounced and the heat is tempered, fading slowly into a firm garlic aftertaste. This variety will benefit from long, slow cooking where its strong garlic flavor can develop and its heat tone down.
Our favorites were the Xi'an, followed by the Tzentendere with the Tarne coming in last due to its biting heat.
We both think that the Tarne will probably be great, perhaps even better than the others when cooked due to its rich flavor. It's from southern France, so that's a start. Ratatouille, anyone?
I'll probably try the Tzentendere rubbed raw on some Hungarian style bread with olive oil, the way I had it in a restaurant years ago.
The Xi'an is so mouth friendly even raw that it will probably be paired simply with vegetables where its flavor won't be masked. Maybe garlic fries...