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One chef, one ingredient: the chef to the White House talks garlic

Posted On 2012 Nov 05
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Cristeta Comerford, chef of the USA’s White House, attending a “Chef des Chefs Club” (CCC) press conference at the Plaza Athenee Palace on July 23, 2012 in Paris
©AFP PHOTO / JACQUES DEMARTHON

(Relaxnews) – If you are what you eat, then it could be said that chefs are what they cook. In an exclusive series from Relaxnews, some of the top chefs from around the world share their favorite food ingredient to prepare and eat, every week. Whether it be peas, apricots, or sea urchin, the answers are as varied as the chefs themselves. This week, on the eve of the US election, Cristeta Comerford, chef to President Barack Obama as of November 5, chose to talk about the merits of garlic, an ingredient she cited without a moment’s hesitation.

Philippine-born chef Cristeta Comerford has been cooking at the White House since 1995. At a gathering earlier this year in Paris which drew an international roster of chefs to heads of state, known as Le Club des Chefs des Chefs, Comerford shared her favorite ingredient to use with Relaxnews.

Why did you choose this ingredient?
I always use garlic. It’s the soul of our cooking in the Philippines.

What’s your favorite memory or anecdote associated with the product?
For me it’s the smell of garlic growing up in Asia. Rice is a staple in every Filipino household. And the first smell when you wake up in the morning is rice, and garlic.

When is the ingredient in season?
It’s available year-round.

Chicken adobo
©Audi Dela Cruz/Shutterstock.com

What’s the best way to prepare to cook it?
I’m partial to roasting garlic with olive oil or sweating it out. It’s heaven for me.

What are the most common mistakes people make when cooking or preparing this ingredient?
The biggest mistake is using bad garlic. When you see green shoots sprouting out of them, they’re too mature.

Also, another tip is to take out the little piece [core or shoot] inside the garlic clove which can be bitter.

Favorite dish using garlic?
Filipino adobo, which uses garlic and vegetables in a soy base.

Editor’s noteThe Food Network offers a simple chicken adobo recipe that calls for white vinegar, soy sauce, four cloves of garlic, peppercorns and bay leaves. Food.com’s recipe is similar but adds potatoes to make it a complete meal.

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