Dulce de Leche de Ajo

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Anyone in the Chicagoland area must try Mercat a la Planxa. It is a Catalan style restaurant by Chef Jose Garces, native Chicagoan but well known in the Philly area. And a related note, Chef Garces has been selected among 10 up-and-coming chefs to complete for a spot in Kitchen Stadium on Iron Chef America! I don’t care if Michael Pollen is giving it a bad wrap (hey, I cook. I also like to watch people cook). However, we don’t get Food Network in Guatemala. And even if we did, we don’t have a T.V. I guess I’ll just have to beg my mom to tape it for me. I am very excited about this possibility.

My first Mercat experience was in celebration of my graduation from grad school. We were going to just stop by the restaurant to meet my Dad’s business partner for “a drink” before family time downtown and much later dinner. We began downstairs in the basement with a few cocktails, cured meets, cheeses, those yummy bacon-wrapped dates, and were much later ushered upstairs to the dining room with help of the partner’s company card. The upstairs was an open tactfully-designed dining room overlooking Grant Park. Bottles of wine, plates of tapas, paella, sausages, ect were continually being passed around, and our mouths were never bored with delicate texture and flavors we were experiencing. We left rather early (having started at 3pm), and got home around 7pm. We were happy, full and, i’ll admit, pretty drunk. We laid down for a nap and awoke at 1am, just a little late for a party we were to attend.

The second experience, this past June, was less extravagant but none the less pleasing. Since it was just the two of us, we just had a light lunch. Sea scallots lightly seasoned and tenderly grilled; sautéed mushrooms with garlic and wine; and a lovely plate of cheese served with marmalade and a garlic dulce de leche. I was skeptic and thought I would enjoy my cheese on its own; and it was good cheese which can stand on its own. But I tried it, cuz I’ll try almost anything. And it was delicious, creamy, lustrous. It went really well with the cheese, bread, and apples. So what did we do? What we always do when we try something amazing and different. Go home and make it!

Dulce de Leche con Ajo:IMG_1807
1- 14oz can sweetened condensed milk*
6 heads (not cloves) garlic, separated and peeled
A small piece of cheese cloth
A couple pinches large grain sea salt

First, roast the garlic. I like to do it in foil with a little butter in the oven. Wrap it tightly, roast for around 30-40, sometimes 50 minutes. I like to do the cloves already peeled instead of whole heads because it reduces wasted garlicy deliciousness, and it is easier to remove the pulp. When the garlic is roasted to prefection and cooled off a little, put it int he cheese cloth and squeeze the garlic through. This will make it very smooth and easier to whisk into the milk.

Second, make the dulce de leche. Put the milk in the top of a double boiler, and cook on medium heat. Before the milk gets very thick, whisk in the garlic. Then keep stirring it occationally until it is a thick deep caramel color. If you don’t have patience, like I often don’t, you can do this in the microwave, but be very careful and take it out very frequently (every minute or even 30 seconds). The firrst time I made it in the microwave I overcooked it and it was pretty gritty, not lustrous and smooth. It was still delicious though, I would say.

*You can be more natural and use sugar and milk. I would prefer that normally too, but it would probably take twice as long. With the sweetened condensed milk it is much quicker. Plus, if a can is good enough for David Lebovitz, its good enough for me.

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