Everyday Gourmet (Sept. 18, 2008)

Farmer Brown is in town

Sept. 18, 2008
By Kim Dannies

Did you know that Williston has its very own Farmer Brown? Yup — when he’s not growing students at the University of Vermont, Pat Brown grows rows and rows of gorgeous garlic. Temptress, Carpathian, Siberian, Leah, Georgia Fire, Romanian Red and Polish Hardneck are all thriving in picture perfect grids at the MacGregor Garlic Farm he shares with his wife, children’s book author and illustrator Amy Huntington.

Most cooks consider garlic a culinary rock star, but I never knew there were so many different bulbs grooving in Vermont until I ran into Farmer Brown at a food event. Pat shared samples of each variety and let me experiment with their different qualities.

The Georgia Fire is hot, but sultry, and salsas right through any fresh tomato dish with lots of style. The patrician Siberian is garlic royalty, with a purple skin and a common touch (use it in everything). For a pure garlic splash, go with the Polish Hardneck. I like it chopped, swimming in a pool of cold pressed olive oil, smeared on lightly toasted artisanal bread, with a glass of Spanish Rioja acting as lifeguard. The zesty Carpathian is the stuff to ratchet up basic mashed potatoes along with buttermilk, melted butter and sea salt. Mellow out the Romanian Red by roasting it for puree — slice the head off, douse in olive oil, bake in a covered ramekin for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. It’s great in my Garlic Flan recipe.

Natural Provisions in Williston is now selling Farmer Brown’s garlic varieties in limited quantities, so try some while they last.

Roasted Garlic Flan

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Scald 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of cream in a saucepan; cool. In a work bowl, whisk together 2 eggs and 2 additional egg yolks, one-fourth cup of cooled roasted garlic puree and a pinch of nutmeg. Whisk while slowly adding small amounts of the cream mixture to the eggs (tempering) to form a liquid custard; season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Lightly grease 4-ounce ramekins with cooking spray. Portion custard into ramekins and set ramekins into a large cake pan. Pull out oven rack and set pan on it. Fill the cake pan with boiling water until it hits halfway up the ramekin to form a water bath (bain-marie). Cover with foil and gently slide into oven. Bake 32 minutes at 300 degrees or until flan is firm but glossy. Cool slightly; un-mold flan to serving plates. Top with a simple salsa of fresh tomatoes, parsley and basil. Serves 6.

Quick tips about garlic: There is no substitute for freshly chopped garlic. Choose heads with firm, plump bulbs and dry skins. Avoid garlic with sprouts — it’s old and nasty. Try chopping cloves with a bit of kosher salt and the garlic will hold together nicely as the salt absorbs flavorful juices. Garlic presses are generally frowned upon because they are metal and react with the acid the garlic releases when pressed.

Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three college-aged daughters. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.