I encounter a lot of chefs that don't know how to peel garlic and end up doing it the long, hard way. Other chefs use packaged peeled garlic. Personally, I prefer to buy my garlic fresh at the Farmer's Market and peel them myself.
I think it's more economical and sustainable this way - the garlic comes direct from the farmer without any plastic packaging, and has less carbon footprint because the garlic wasn't processed by machines and then shipped to supermarkets. In this post, I'll share my quick and easy technique for peeling garlic.
First, pick off your cloves from the bulb, and lay the flat side down - the side that was closest to the "heart" of the garlic - on your cutting board with the curved side up. Then, take your chef's knife and with one hand holding the knife handle, lay either flat side of the knife on top of the garlic clove. The garlic should be closer to the knife handle than the center of the blade.
With your free hand, slap the heel of your hand down and smash the side of the blade against the garlic clove. Voilà! The outer skin is magically detached from the clove, and you now have a perfectly peeled clove ready for chopping or placing in the rolling garlic chopper.
On their first try, most people don't hit the blade hard enough and end up hitting it two or three times. With enough practice, you'll get the hang of figuring out how much force you need so you only have to smash the knife blade once. In no time, you'll be a seasoned pro, pounding away at garlic and quickly getting enough peeled cloves to make Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic without breaking in a sweat. Oh, and don't forget to sweep the skins in your compost bin!
(All images by Kathryn Hill.)