Our Winning Garlic Recipe Is A Tongue-Twister Top Chef's Carla Hall and Hell's Kitchen's Rock Harper helped pick our winning garlic recipe — and it's hot stuff. Warning: This recipe isn't for the faint of heart — or stomach!
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Our Winning Garlic Recipe Is A Tongue-Twister

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Our Winning Garlic Recipe Is A Tongue-Twister

Our Winning Garlic Recipe Is A Tongue-Twister

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Linda Wertheimer, sitting in for Liane Hansen.

Chop it, press it, roast it, serve it up with greens or pasta, most people think a little garlic goes a long way in the kitchen. But, apparently our listeners like to lay on the garlic with a lavish hand. As we found when we asked you to send us your garlic recipes.

We handed them over to California garlic farmer Chester Aaron, gave him a month to sift and sort and pick his top three. He joins us now from member station KRCB in Rohnert Park, California. Mr. Aaron, welcome back.

Mr. CHESTER AARON (Garlic Farmer): Thank you very much.

WERTHEIMER: I wonder how much garlic you actually used in testing and tasting these recipes?

Mr. AARON: Approximately eight pounds.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WERTHEIMER: Approximately. And did you have to peel it all yourself?

Mr. AARON: I did, but generally I use different varieties of garlic. I don't know how many varieties the contestants had and some varieties are much easier to peel than others.

WERTHEIMER: I see. I assume that garlic farming makes you a fragrant fellow to begin with, but I wondered…

Mr. AARON: Can you tell?

(Soundbite of laughter)

WERTHEIMER: I wondered if dealing with that much garlic had any kind of unusual effect?

Mr. AARON: Oh sure. I'm really 103 years old and my 23-year-old wife is pregnant.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WERTHEIMER: Tell us about the three recipes you picked. I understand that you took the whole group of recipes and narrowed it right down to ten. So, did you try all ten of those?

Mr. AARON: I actually tried 15 and then selected those ten. And out of those ten, I then, again, made the recipes of the three, which I chose as one, two, three. Two of them had seafood, which surprised me a little bit because most people tend to not use too much garlic with seafood.

WERTHEIMER: So, what we have here is crab cakes with green garlic, submitted by Camille Napier Bernstein, shrimp with garlic potatoes, submitted by Rachel Zemser, and Bill Maxwell's Garbanero Tongue-Twister Hot Sauce. And we have three judges here in Washington to choose among those three and pick a winner.

BONNY WOLF: Let me give you each a glass of water. I also have here a glass full of parsley, which is good for garlic overdose.

Ms. CARLA HALL (Chef, Owner, Alchemy Caterers): Okay. Let's put that over here.

WERTHEIMER: That was Bonny Wolf. Our judges gathered in her home. She's NPR's food essayist. And she was joined by Chef Carla Hall, from the Bravo show "Top Chef." She owns Alchemy Caterers here in Washington. And we also had Chef Rock Harper. He's the winner of the "Hell's Kitchen" TV show on Fox. He's the executive chef of a new restaurant here in our fair city called Ben's Next Door.

Bonny prepared the dishes, the chefs tasted them, but in the end the dish that impressed them the most was the one with the scary ingredients: six to 12 habanero peppers and cups of garlic.

Mr. ROCK HARPER (Executive Chef, Ben's Next Door): I'm scared. Do we have any beer in the house?

WOLF: Yeah.

Mr. HARPER: Yeah, go. That's not bad. Wow, that's spicy.

WOLF: I actually really liked it.

Ms. HALL: This has got to be the surprise of the day.

WOLF: It is.

Mr. HARPER: Yeah.

WOLF: I am just stunned. I thought it was just going to kill us.

Ms. HALL: Oh, it's burning.

Mr. HARPER: It's hot.

Ms. HALL: It's nice. It's very flavorful.

Mr. HARPER: You know, I don't like spice for no reason. I just, you know, all of these…

WOLF: Well, that's why I liked this, 'cause it's not just hot for hot's sake.

Ms. HALL: It's not gratuitous spicy.

Mr. HARPER: You know, we're going to have to evaluate a little bit of the whole…

WOLF: Maybe he could feed it to the economy.

Ms. HALL: I know, right?

WERTHEIMER: And there you have it, Chester. They've picked Silver Bill's. Did you expect that?

Mr. AARON: No, I did not. I thought that they would pick a full dish and not just a sauce. But good for them.

WERTHEIMER: So, now we're joined by Silver Bill himself. William Maxwell, as he's also known, he joins us from member station KBIA in Columbia, Missouri. Bill, are you there?

Mr. WILLIAM MAXWELL: I am here.

WERTHEIMER: Mr. Maxwell is actually from Vandalia, which he tells me is near Hannibal, Missouri. Bill, one of the things I liked about this recipe is that it would take about five minutes to make once you actually had all the ingredients in your house. And every single ingredient in this recipe is hot. Is there a balance thing that goes on here that makes it possible for people to eat something that has half a dozen habanero peppers and two bottles of hot sauce and a quart of garlic?

Mr. MAXWELL: Well, I put a disclaimer sort of in the instructions that said combine all the ingredients, and for a thinner sauce - which would also be not quite as hot - to add more Louisiana hot sauce. And I also said use at least six habaneros or more depending upon their size and the maker's taste and/or threshold of pain.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WERTHEIMER: I'm going to try it raw. I've got some of the hot sauce right here. I've got some chips. So, I got to tell you that the aroma of this thing brings tears to your eyes. But I'm going to try it.

(Soundbite of crunching)

WERTHEIMER: You know, it's not, like, jump out the window hot. I mean, it's not so hot that I want to, you know, head to the nearest large body of water. It's very good.

Mr. MAXWELL: It's just you said before, it's possible to make things really hot. If they are not flavorful, hot doesn't make much difference. A guy told me one time, this sauce you make is really good but it's too hot to eat. Isn't there some way that you could make it not quite so hot?

I said if you pour a shot of Jack Daniels in a glass and add a little water so it's not quite as strong, it will also taste different. If you want the flavor, you will have to tolerate the heat.

WERTHEIMER: You say you use a tablespoon of seasoned salt. Is that, what is it, something like Chachere's or something?

Mr. MAXWELL: Yes. Well, seasoned salt comes in a variety of combinations…

WERTHEIMER: Oh, it doesn't matter?

Mr. MAXWELL: …whether it comes off the shelf…yeah, the seasoned salt is not going to overwhelm the other ingredients, take my word for it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WERTHEIMER: Do you put hot sauce on everything you eat?

Mr. MAXWELL: Well, no, I don't put hot sauce on everything that I eat. I do carry a tiny little bottle around in my pocket, which I tell people I never leave home without. And I'm not sure this is an appropriate comment, but I tell people I put it on everything except ice cream and women I would like to see again.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WERTHEIMER: Do you think that I should worry about the fact that my temperature is rising and there's a little bit of - my eyelids are sweating. I mean, is that a problem?

Mr. MAXWELL: I think that is transient. It will pass, and other people might…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. AARON: Don't say that.

Mr. MAXWELL: …complain, if other people may be a little bit strongly affected by the aroma that you give off following your consumption of this, simply give them a little spoon to slather a bit on their own tongue because two people eating garlic cannot smell the other person's garlic.

(Soundbite of laughter)

WERTHEIMER: There are words to live by. Chester Aaron, do you think that's true?

Mr. AARON: Well, it all depends on the person and it all depends on the garlic.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. AARON: I have a lot of different garlics, different people will respond in different ways.

WERTHEIMER: You can find the top three recipes and a video of our judges trying them out on our Web site. That's NPR.org. Gentlemen, thank you both very much. Chester Aaron, garlic farmer, William Maxwell, the winner of our garlic recipe contest. You guys, you're terrific. Thank you.

Mr. AARON: Thank you very much.

Mr. MAXWELL: Thank you very much, Linda.

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