Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic

At one time, this classic recipe was all the rage in the United States. I remember the first time I heard the name of the recipe and thought, “Wow! That’s a LOT of garlic!” What I did not realize was that the garlic cloves are cooked unpeeled so the flavor is full of garlic, but is quite mellow.

The origins of this dish are French, and typically you will not find dishes that are really overwhelming in the garlic department. French cuisine typically strives for balance of flavors. The new American versions of this dish will usually call for peeled cloves of garlic, which will yield a potent dish indeed. Sometimes the garlic is just tossed into the dish uncooked, and sometimes the garlic is sautéed a bit before the braising and this will give you a potentially fiery version.

I like the old fashioned version of braising the garlic cloves in their jackets that yields cloves filled with a mellow creamy garlic paste that you squeeze onto toasted bread or into any sauce you might have. If I want a more pronounced garlic flavor, I will sauté a few cloves of garlic with the aromatics. Most versions want you to either seal the chicken into a pot with a flour paste, or else to sauté the chicken to brown it up. Either way, I find this time consuming and messy. Here is my twist, based on a technique I learned at Chez Panisse when I did my internship there. Simple and clean, once you do this recipe, you will find many ways to use this technique.

INGREDIENTS:

4 each chicken thighs and drumsticks -OR- 1 chicken cut into 8 pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
8 sprigs of fresh thyme (around 1 tablespoon), chopped
1-2 tablespoons of neutral flavored oil (grapeseed) or butter
40 cloves of garlic, unpeeled (about 3 heads)
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and de-germed (optional)
½ cup of white wine, such as sauvignon blanc or chenin blanc
1-1½ cups light chicken stock or water
2 carrots, peeled and cut into ¼ inch coins
1 celery stalk, cut into ¼ inch slices
1 small brown onion, peeled and sliced through the root, the cut into ¼ inch half-moons

METHOD:

Pre-heat the oven to 425°F.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with some of the thyme. Set aside and keep cool.

Over medium heat, warm a deep ovenproof pan with a tight fitting lid that is large enough to just hold all the chicken. When it is hot, add the onion and sauté until it turns translucent and is getting soft.

Sprinkle thyme into the pan and add the carrots and the celery, and sauté to soften.

If you are using the peeled garlic cloves, add them to the pan now and sauté to color a little. Cook just until they start to give off that telltale garlic aroma.

Remove pan from the heat, and turn the heat to medium-high.

Flatten out the contents of the pan, and sprinkle in the 40 garlic cloves.

Place the chicken skin-side down on the vegetables so they lie flat.

Return the pan to the heat, and when it starts to sizzle, add the wine to the pan. Bring the wine to a boil, and cook down by half.

Add the stock or water to the pan. It should be enough to come just halfway up the chicken. (If not, add some additional water to the pan to achieve the necessary level. If it comes up a little past halfway that’s fine too.) Bring the pan to the boil.

Once the liquid in the pan is boiling, place the lid on the pan and place in the oven. Cook for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove the pan from the oven. Remove the lid and turn the chicken over so the skin is up and above the surface of the liquid.

Return the pan to the oven, and cook to brown the skin of the chicken. This should take about 15-20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, and the chicken is ready to serve.

I like to pull the garlic cloves from the pan and pass them separately so people can squeeze out the creamy paste.

If there is a lot of liquid left I the pan, put the chicken onto a serving platter, pull the garlic cloves from the pan, and put the pan over a hot burner and reduce the liquid in the pan until it thickens a bit. At this point you can serve the vegetables with the sauce, or you can strain the sauce and pass it on the side. Be sure to have some nice crusty bread slices to put the garlic paste on.

YIELD: Serves 4

SOURCE: Chef Andrew E Cohen

CHEF NOTES:

This technique is great for make-ahead dishes. You can cook the chicken the day before, stopping a little before the chicken is thoroughly browned. Cool the chicken separately from the sauce and refrigerate. The next day, you can skim the fat from the cooled sauce and warm it gently. Reheat the chicken in the oven or sauté pan, crisping the skin. Serve with the heated sauce, having fished out the garlic cloves.

If you want a very potent garlic flavor, peel the garlic cloves and sauté them when you would the 5 cloves in the above recipe. Be careful not to burn the garlic or your dish will be bitter. When it comes time to serve, you will find that many of the garlic cloves may have melted into the sauce. They will certainly be soft. If you have a food mill, this is the perfect time to employ it. Remove the chicken to a serving platter, and over a bowl, pour the contents of the pan into the food mill and mill the vegetables and garlic. This will give a smooth garlicky sauce to serve with the chicken.