Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic: A Love Story

This is a story of boy meets girl.

Okay, maybe not, but that sounds better than “this is a story of chicken meets garlic.”  Or does it?

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic is a well-loved recipe by many–there are zillions of recipes out there. Still, in spite of this fanfare, some people might feel inclined to shy away.  40 cloves–which is about two heads of garlic–sounds like a lot of, well, pungency.  This became especially apparent when I was talking to my dad the other day while separating out the garlic for this recipe.  When he heard the answer to his question of “what’s for dinner tonight?” he immediately responded with, “yeeeeesh.”

See, I grew up in a family that tended to shy away from garlic and other strong-flavored foods.  I don’t know if this is a generally Lithuanian phenomenon, or if it is merely particular to my own family.  Lithuanians are pretty much by definition meat-and-potatoes kind of people; bold flavors don’t really permeate the cuisine (unless you find bacon fat to be bold. It can be!). Rather, those who partake of it are prodded to savor the delicate sweetness of a boiled potato, maybe seasoned with some salt or some dill.  In fact, while I cook with garlic pretty often now and ate many dishes containing garlic as a kid (mostly in restaurants or in friend’s homes) I actually didn’t even really know what a clove of garlic looked like until I started cooking for myself. You can laugh if you want. So anyway, given this context, it’s no surprise that I could pretty much hear the raised eyebrow coming from the other side of the phone conversation as I got this dish ready.

Still, chicken with 40 cloves of garlic is a dish that I’ve always wanted to try. My latest impulse buy gave me an excuse to try it out:

Okay, I’m not a huge advocate for having too many gadgets in the kitchen. You just don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to cook good food. But I did feel the need to have something that could go from stovetop to oven and back again, and until last week, I didn’t. After coming back from the Beyond section of Bed Bath and Beyond, $99 in the hole, I felt the need to make the cost-to-use ratio of this (beautiful, sleek, red) dutch oven worthwhile. Right now I’m at $33 per use…

Anyways, after thinking about what I could make for this baby’s inaugural use, I realized that I had everything that I needed to make chicken with 40 cloves of garlic, except the chicken. Like I said, there are tons of recipes out there, but I took the lead from Mark Bittman’s recipe for Chicken and Garlic Stew in How to Cook Everything. If you don’t have it yet, it’s a great book. I love his tone. He always makes me want to say that some flavor combination is “a revelation” or “really special.”

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 whole chicken, rinsed, patted dry, and cut up.
  • A couple of swirls around the pot of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 heads of garlic, separated into cloves but not peeled
  • A handful or two of minced fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 cup white wine

What makes this recipe awesome is that there are minimal ingredients and, after the prep work, there’s really nothing you have to do to make it turn out beautifully.

The first order of business is cutting up the chicken. I won’t go into detail here; I just wanted to post this glamor shot. When you’re done you should have two wings, two breasts, two thighs, and two drumsticks all ready to go. Save that carcass for making stock later! (My sister’s fiance joked that our freezer looks like a morgue. Luckily I made a huge pot of stock today so it’s a little less eerie up in there.)

So, M. Bittman says to throw everything in the pot and let it go at that. I like my chicken skin to be a little browned, though, so if you feel the same way, then heat the olive oil first and briefly brown the chicken pieces, finally turning them over to be skin side-up. Then add the garlic, parsley, salt, pepper, and allspice. (You don’t have to peel the garlic first–you can do that while you eat. It’s kind of fun!)  Then pour in the wine, turn the heat to medium-high, and let the contents come to a boil. Then put the cover on your pot and reduce the heat to low.  Then cook it for an hour. Then eat it. That’s it. I’m serious. All you have to do after dumping everything in the pot is to go call your mom or fold your laundry or have a mini dance party in your living room.

And how did it all turn out, you might ask? Well, I said at the beginning that this was a love story.  The garlic becomes so sweet and so soft and luscious–not at all sharp or pungent–and the chicken is incredibly tender and juicy. You can squeeze the garlic out of its skin onto slices of crusty bread (or use said bread to sop up everything that’s left in the pot). It’s out of control.  This was a definite no-leftovers meal. Yum!


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2 Responses to “Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic: A Love Story”

  1. Mamyte Says:

    I like how your beautiful sleek red dutch oven matches your beautiful sleek red mixer. They are conducive to future “revelations” and “really special” meals. Such a happy kitchen, yummy tastes and aromas!

  2. Says:

    dreamy!! xx

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