This was such a relief to me. I had been guiltily buying little plastic packets of garlic cloves at my local produce stand. I use huge amounts of garlic when I cook, especially in some international foods, and the routine of peeling garlic had gotten old. But until Bittman declared it a worthy shortcut, I felt a little secretive about the way I supported my garlic habit. No delicate, papery bulbs in my kitchen, unless I'm making roasted garlic. No - I take cloves by the dozen out of the plastic box, and now I feel vindicated.
Some tips, however: I avoid the plastic jars in the regular grocery section, stuffed with garlic from who knows when and who knows where. I look instead for freshly packed trays of peeled cloves at my produce stand or farmers market. Also, I check for brown spots and any trace of slime.
In cooked dishes I do not taste a difference between these pre-peeled cloves and the ones I painstakingly remove from a bulb. In uncooked dishes and for roasted garlic, I do still try to use bulbs. But not always...
What about you? Are you a hardcore garlic bulb peeler and eater? Or do you indulge with me in the handfuls of garlic from the styrofoam trays?