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Chef's Hat: Garlic - the powerhouse ingredient

For the most part, garlic is easy to use and you can’t go wrong adding a small amount of garlic to a lot of everyday dishes.

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Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

Without a doubt, garlic brings a strong and intriguing flavor to foods.

But garlic does have a complex flavor and can be overpowering if using too much of it or if it is not used correctly. A little less garlic or perhaps a small amount of cooking will reduce that dish from one that wards off vampires to a delightful side of garlic bread or a savory roasted chicken.

The enzymes in garlic are inactivated by heat, so cooking garlic will lead to a less harsh flavor. Also, garlic contains an allicin compound that is destroyed in the cooking process.

So garlic mellows as it cooks, and is strongest when used in raw form.

For the most part, garlic is easy to use and you can’t go wrong adding a small amount of garlic to a lot of everyday dishes.

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Although some cooks insist on only using fresh garlic that you chop yourself (even garlic presses are a no-no), there is no reason not to substitute fresh with jarred garlic or garlic powder - either will give your recipes that enticing garlic flavor.

Garlic is often used in salad dressings, vinaigrettes, marinades and sauces. It can also be used as a seasoning for meats, fish and poultry.

Forget about bland vegetables. Mix a bit of garlic with some melted butter and pour it over your broccoli or green beans to turn those tasteless vegetables into an appealing side dish.

For a twist on a green salad, rub skinned, raw garlic on the bottom and sides of a salad bowl before adding your lettuce and other vegetables to the bowl.

Garlic really shines when combined with honey. The nutty flavor of cooked garlic along with the sweetness of honey will turn plain shrimp or boring chicken into a savory main dish.

Honey Garlic Chicken Tidbits can be prepared with either chicken thighs or breasts. This is a fast to prepare meal that is great for a weekend or weeknight dinner.

The original recipe for Honey Garlic Chicken was served over mashed potatoes. Potatoes seemed a bit heavy and would mask some of the enhancing garlic-honey flavor. So instead of potatoes, choose something lighter, such as linguine noodles or rice.

If you are not a chicken fan or are tired of chicken, substitute shrimp. Using shrimp is a bit more complicated and requires a few more ingredients, but still leads to a delightful evening meal.

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Don’t be afraid to experiment with garlic. If you don’t like it strong and pungent, gently heat it up in a skillet or roast it and you will end up with an ingredient that will add a mellow, nutty flavor to your dishes.

Forget about repelling vampires with that string of garlic and instead use it to season your dishes. You’ll be glad you did. Happy Eating!

Honey Garlic Chicken Tidbits

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Use a combination of honey and garlic to make Honey Garlic Chicken Tidbits and serve the dish over linguine noodles.
Contributed / Donna Evans

  • 1 1/2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon Montreal Chicken Seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 garlic cloves minced or 2 teaspoons jarred garlic
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 tablespoons parsley
  • Cooked linguine
  • Olive oil
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese

Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces.

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.

Add the chicken to the skillet. Season with salt, Montreal Chicken Seasoning and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until the chicken is lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the butter, garlic, vinegar and honey to the pan. Stir so the chicken is well coated.

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Simmer the chicken for 4-5 minutes to caramelize the sauce. Remove from heat and let the chicken sit for 1 to 2 minutes.

Place linguine on plates and top with a spoonful or two of olive oil and lightly mix. Place chicken pieces on top of the pasta and top with Parmesan cheese and parsley.

Honey-Garlic Shrimp

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Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic minced or 3 teaspoons jarred garlic
  • 16 to 20 ounces of peeled, deveined shrimp
  • Salt
  • Fresh parsley
  • Cooked rice or cooked linguine noodles
  • Olive oil

Note: Do not overcook your shrimp. Overcooked shrimp is tough and rubbery.

Heat butter in a nonstick pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Keep cooking and stirring the butter in the pan for about 3 minutes. Cook until a foam forms and the butter is golden brown in color.

Add the honey, lemon juice, soy sauce and garlic; stir well to combine. Cook for 15 to 30 seconds, just until the garlic is fragrant. Remove the pan from heat. Pour approximately half of the mixture into a measuring cup. There will be about 3 tablespoons of mixture left in the pan.

Add about half of the shrimp to the pan. Cook for 2 minutes and turn over and cook for an additional 2 minutes on the other side. Transfer the shrimp to a plate.

Wipe out the pan and add 3 tablespoons of the reserved mixture to the pan. Add the rest of the shrimp and cook for 2 minutes, turn and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

Turn the heat down to low. Return the shrimp that was set aside back into the pan. Pour any remaining honey/butter sauce over the shrimp. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes, just so all the shrimp is warmed.

Put the cooked rice or linguine onto plates. Add a spoonful or two of olive oil to each plate and lightly mix. Top with the shrimp and parsley.

Donna Evans is an Echo Journal correspondent.

Related Topics: CHEF'S HATFOODRECIPES
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