One of the more popular appetizers at higher-end restaurants - or at least one of my favorites - is a bulb of roasted garlic with slices of toasted bread. The sweetness of properly roasted garlic, spread almost like butter, atop the slight crunch and tender chewiness of lightly toasted mouth-watering sourdough... it's an excellent start to a meal.
However, even among my foodie friends I don't see or hear of them roasting garlic at home all that often. They love the flavor; they love the texture. It's just not something they think about. This is a shame, as it's one of the simplest things anyone could prepare.
I love garlic and I enjoy roasting large quantities of it at a time. Roasted garlic keeps well in the refrigerator and can add a more subtle garlic flavor to sauces, soups, bread, really anything where you want a hint of garlicky sweet with low heat.
I don't usually roast bulbs of garlic in the oven. It is a chore getting out the cloves after cooking, and the small amount of leftover roasted garlic makes storing it seem like more of a chore and a space-waster. It looks nice, yes, but I prefer getting large containers of peeled garlic cloves from retailers, like the three pounds of garlic at Costco. It works very well for this. All you need is a pan, a slotted spoon, maybe a funnel, an oven, garlic cloves, good oil and at most an hour of your time. You don't even need to be near the stove for most of it.
I generally use a medium-sized oval shaped souffle dish, which will fit roughly half of the garlic from said three pound container. If I'm roasting less I might use my medium oval souffle pan or a lasagna pan, but that's not the usual.
Here's my method:
Preheat the oven to about 350F degrees. Put a large quantity of shelled garlic cloves into the souffle pan, generally until it's about half full. Pour in oil - canola (rapeseed), grapeseed, or extra virgin olive oil all work well for this, but I suggest leaving the extra virgin for other work owing to the flavor. I generally use canola. Pour in enough to cover the garlic. Some cloves will be breaking the surface of the oil a little bit. That's OK. Put the souffle pan in the oven for about 40 minutes, then come back and check the garlic. If it has a good soft texture it's time to decant; otherwise, check it every 5-10 minutes until its ready.
When the garlic is ready you'll want to have two containers handy: one for the garlic and one for the oil. Use a slotted spoon or a small mesh strainer on a handle to remove the garlic from the oil. Pour the leftover oil into a suitable container or two and cover it quickly.
Voila! Roasted garlic cloves and some bonus garlic oil! Keep both of them in the fridge; the garlic oil will keep for a long time there, and the garlic will easily last for months.
Unless, of course, you eat it all first. mmmm.....