Thursday, October 31, 2013

Black Magic Sauce

A year ago I found recipe for Magic Sauce and it has become a staple in our kitchen ever since. Magic sauce is magic because it is simple, natural, and delicious, and beautiful. This fall, I thought I'd create a variation to honor the season, the waning light of October, and make a batch with a dark twist using black garlic. 

Black garlic is made by fermenting whole heads of garlic in sea water for months. The end result is a head full of sticky, savory, dense, deepest-dark cloves. They have a texture somewhere between a gummy bear and thick guava paste. The spicy bite we associate with fresh garlic is entirely replaced by the rich, thick, truffle-like, heady, garlic richness. Like kimchi, black garlic is prized for its flavor and healthfulness, and is often eaten on its own as an accompanying appetizer or alongside the main dish without much adornment. You'll be able to find black garlic on-line in bulk, at specialty food stores, or thankfully, for a terrific price, at Trader Joe's. Like any quality ingredient, It doesn't need any, but I love the immense depth it lends to other recipes.

This sauce doesn't taste like a party, it tastes like a ritual. The flavors are complex but harmonious, earthy and transcendent. It doesn't have the bright, showgirl zest of a chimichurri. This tastes a little brambly, a little ancient, a little wild.

The magic lies in this sauce's power to make almost anything taste better. Flank steak, grilled chicken, baked potatoes and roasted vegetables all benefit from a healthy drizzle. It's a fantastic marinade too. Add it to a simple green salad with a splash of aged balsamic vinegar and some grated pecorino. Dress up a mound of hummus or babaganouj. Eggs and bacon won't know what hit 'em. You want magic? One spoonful turns broth into soup. Tonight, before trick-or-treating, we will enjoy it with toasted baguette slices, basque cheese, fresh olives, chewy roasted tomatoes and hot sopressata salame.

Black Magic Sauce

Recipe adapted from Heidi Swanson. The original can be found at

1/2 cup olive oil
1 large clove of crushed garlic
2 cloves of black garlic
1 tbsp fresh rosemary
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1 tsp fresh oregano 
1 crushed bay leaf
2 pinches of chili flake (or much more)
1 pinch of sea salt
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 squeeze of lemon

Gently heat oil on stove top until thoroughly warm.

Add black garlic to a medium-sized glass bowl and mash into a paste. 

Add remaining dry ingredients and fresh herbs to glass bowl. 

Pour in heated oil. There might be slight sizzling but not crackling or spitting.

Mix together until well incorporated. 

Add lemon juice.

Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator. The mixture might turn cloudy but will immediately clear up when brought of room temperature.

This sauce is delicious from the get-go but will improve even more after sitting for a day or two. All of the herbs will settle so remember to dig deep for that slurry of goodness at the bottom of the jar. The sauce is gorgeous too. The paprika makes the oil glow fiery red and the suspended herbs and black garlic bits make everything look so sumptuous.

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