A few months ago, I watched a program called “Mexico–One Plate At a Time”, by chef Rick Bayless. This particular episode was called “Liquid Gold,” and he and his daughter were exploring something wonderful called “Mojo de Ajo” (Garlic Sauce, but doesn’t it sound so much more fabulous in Spanish?) I jotted some notes on the method, and immediately headed downstairs to make my own, because it looked so useful and yummy.
Mojo de Ajo is a staple item you store in your fridge for up to 3 months, and use as the oil for sautéeing things, for searing meat, as the base for other sauces, or even (as we discovered tonight) as the sauce on a pizza. This “liquid gold” is easy to make, and is worth its weight in culinary gold.
Mojo de Ajo
- 5 whole heads of garlic
- 2 c. good olive oil
- 1 TBSP salt
- 1 guajillo pepper, chopped, or 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
- The juice of 2-3 limes
Start by pulling apart the garlic heads and peeling the skins off each clove. (Don’t know how to do this? It’s fun! Put the flat of your chef’s knife on the clove, smack the blade with the heel of your hand, and the garlic skin comes right off.) When you have all the cloves peeled, spread them in the bottom of a 9×9 baking dish or Dutch oven. Pour the olive oil over the garlic. Sprinkle the salt and chili flakes/guajillo pieces and give it a swirl. Bake at 325ºF for 40-50 minutes, until the garlic has browned and is quite soft. (Warning: If you have any garlic-lovers in the vicinity, you’ll have to forcibly restrain them because of the garlicky aroma wafting through the house.)
Remove from the oven, add the lime juice, and use a potato masher to mash the garlic well. Give the whole mixture a stir, and put it back in the oven for 30 minutes or so. When it comes out, let it cool for a bit, then put it into a nice sealable jar (do NOT strain out the chunks!), and store it in the fridge. When you want to use it, you can let it come to room temperature (because the oil solidifies in the fridge) or just use scoops of the solid oil, which melt once they start to heat up in the pan.
Here’re some of the ways we’ve used Mojo de Ajo:
- Sautéeing fresh vegetables
- Adding onions and dried fruit to make a fabulous dressing for tilapia
- Bread dipping
- Using instead of plain oil for the garlic and onions starter for any meal (I know, there’s already garlic in the Mojo, but I do not recognize the term “too much” when it comes to garlic!)
- Spread over a par-baked pizza crust, and topped lightly with shredded Parmesan–this is eyes-roll-back-in-your-head fabulous! I’ll post it separately as an appetizer, because it’s glorious.
- Browning a pot roast in it before transferring to a crock-pot
- Starting a soup with Mojo and onions
- Using a little to fry up leftover turkey to add to enchilada casserole
- Add a little vinegar and a few dried herbs to make a faboo vinaigrette!
If you had a jar of Mojo de Ajo in your fridge, I bet you’d come up with some more ideas of your own!