Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Alliums are not far behind salt when it comes to the list of the most important ingredients in the history of cooking.  The Allium family is a broad group of flowering plants that encompasses such items as onions, garlic, chives and leeks.  These plants are characterized by their pungent aroma and often colorful flowers displayed at the ends of long stems called scapes.  Hundreds of species are known to exist, but only a few are grown commercially.  Each species is unique, ranging from the tiny tubular chive with its mild flavor and dark purple flowers, to giant red onions with tear-jerking potency and tall curling scapes.  There is a specific flavor nuance to each member that can be used to enhance a dish or when the wrong member is chosen, quickly overpower and ruin it.  How the item is prepared will also determine the flavor outcome.  Leaving the allium raw will maintain its astringency while cooking it will progressively create a sweeter and milder result.  If the raw, chopped white onions that find a home on hot dog condiment stations and taco bars is one extreme - then Korean black garlic is the other.  These whole cloves of garlic are slowly fermented at 140 degrees for over a month until the cloves inside dry out and blacken, softening into a sweet paste with a hint of acidity that can be compared with an aged balsamic vinegar.

The idea behind this dish was to create a preparation that combines different alliums that both enhance and contrast one another.  I started with a pureed base of chive and green garlic, added milk poached garlic cloves, red onion confit, blanched leek hearts and black garlic.  The result explores the broad range of textures and flavors found within the allium family, yet presents itself as a single cohesive component in the context of this sea bass preparation.  

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