Some nights, I'm a lazy cook and only want to chop one clove of garlic for my immediate needs instead of prepping a giant batch and freezing it the way I normally do. The only problem is if I'm already feeling that lazy, I really don't feel like dirtying a whole cutting board. However, I still want my garlic to be finely minced so it suffuses my dish with its wonderful, one-of-a-kind flavor.
Well, thank you, laziness: because of you, I developed a half-assed but pretty effective technique for getting my garlic cut up into teensy-eensy pieces. With this method, only your knife and fingers end up getting dirty. The cutting technique itself is pretty similar to the way chefs mince onions.
This method does require a little practice. However, it's pretty easy to get the hang of and will save you dishwashing time in the end.
Grasp a peeled clove in your non-dominant hand. The really fat, bulbous kinds work best in this situation, but the skinnier ones are fine, too.
Have the knife in your dominant hand and hold both hands over where you want the garlic to land: bowl, skillet, etc. Now make vertical incisions, as evenly spaced as possible, all the way across the garlic clove.
Make the cuts deep—I'd say go about halfway down the length of the clove. Be careful not to nick your fingers (although you can always use food to treat many minor cooking injuries). In fact, I like to use a duller knife for this task just for safety's sake.
Now you'll want to make multiple horizontal cuts across your garlic clove. Basically, you want to create a grid. Try to get to the same depth that you made during the horizontal cuts.
After you're finished, you should see a grid pattern.
Now take your knife and cut a thin slice across the top layer of the garlic to create many fine, small dice.
Repeat this cutting across action until there are no more dice to be had. Shake or wipe the diced garlic off your sticky knife into your pan.
At this point, you've got about half of a garlic clove left. Go ahead and repeat the process, but watch your fingers!
After the second round is complete, you've probably got a wee segment of garlic clove in your hand.
Chances are you think it's too insubstantial to give it a third go-round...
Hah! Fooled you. All you have to do is rotate what's left of the clove so you are holding it by a skinny end, like so:
Now repeat the vertical, horizontal, and slicing across until basically all you have left is a little nub of garlic. Then just slice up that little nub straight into the pan. It won't be as even or as fine as the rest of your mincing, but it'll get the job done.