There are some recipes that just get stuck in your brain.

Not that you’ve tasted or tried them, but because of their promise of whimsy.

I’m talking about the naughtiness in a spotted dick. The holiday escapism that stows away in something that’s titled Turkish delight.

And the incredulity of serving chicken with 40 cloves of garlic.

Yes, forty cloves.

It’s a combination that harks from Provence. It’s one that’s been written about and recreated by practically everyone with a palette and a pen.

And now it’s my turn.

The idea is that with slow and gentle cooking the acrid burn of the garlic fades away, leaving pliable nuggets of gruntish sweetness and the chicken takes on some of their flavour.

There are a few versions of this combination floating around. Some involve roasting the chicken chicken whole, dotted in the roasting tray with cloves still snug in their skins. Others peel the garlic and slow cook cloves and the bits of bird  in a clear broth of stock, herbs and wine.


This one is perfect for nights when you need a bit of exta comfort.


There’s enough white wine included to justify opening a decent bottle of chardonnay and drinking the rest.

The garlic cloves get quickly blanched, so they easily slip out of their shells and there’s less mess on the plate at the end. The chicken is broken into pieces, so people can choose if they want leg or breast.  And the sauce gets some body from a touch of flour at the end and a dash of crème fraiche (though double cream would also be fine).  If you’re feeding a Hungry One or a group, then a rinsed tin of blonde beans at the end helps to bulk it out further.

It’s lovely with a good bitter green salad, or a combination of green beans and toasted hazelnuts of almonds.

But the most important bit are some toasted slices of baguette on the side.

For while there may be between  37 and 40 cloves in the dish (I never was very good at counting), you want to make sure you’ve reserve three or four on the side of your plate so you can smush them against a circle of toasted bread with a flake or two of seasalt.

It’s aioli without the fat, it’s hummous for those who think that beige paste reminds them of burlap.

Whatever it is, it’s very very good.  So good infact, that next time maybe I should think about adding sixty cloves.

Now that would be something worth writing about. 

Chicken with forty odd cloves of garlic

Recipe adapted from Ina Garten’s

Serves 4

Equpiment

1 large cast iron casserole dish. 1 saucepan. 1 set of tongs. 1 mixing bowl. 1 whisk.

Shopping/foraging

3 or 4 heads garlic, about 40 cloves in total  (though 37, or 38 would be fine…)
1.1 kg  of chicken- (either a 1.4 kg chicken cut into 8ths, or  1.1kg of chicken meat made up of marylands or bone in thighs)
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon of diced rosemary
Diced parsley to garnish
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons crème fraiche
(Optional: 1 tin of rinsed cannellini beans)
Sliced and toasted baguette

Here’s how we roll

1.    Twist the top of the head of garlic and remove the outside casing to reveal the inner bulbs. Drop the head of bulbs into a pot of boiling water for a minute, drain and then peel the individual cloves (or buy garlic cloves that have already been peeled).

2.    Dry the chicken and season with salt and pepper.

3.    Heat the butter and oil in a large cast iron casserole dish

4.    Season the chicken with salt and pepper and sauté it chicken skin side down, until brown- about 3 minutes each side.  You may need to do it in batches.  When all the chicken is done, put it on a plate to the side.

5.    Add all of the garlic to the pot. Turn the heat down and sauté for around 7 minutes, until evenly browned.

6.     Remove the garlic cloves and add the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to collect all the brown bits on the bottom.

7.    Return the chicken and the garlic to the pot with the juices.

8.     Cover and simmer with the lid on over the lowest heat for about 30 minutes, until all the chicken is done. Try and lift the breasts up above the garlic and the stock, you don’t want them to stew too much.

9.    Remove the chicken to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.

10.    In a bowl whisk together ½ cup of the sauce, the flour and the crème fraiche. Then whisk it back into the pot. (Optional- add a tin of rinsed cannellini beans at this point to bulk out the meal and add some extra protein).

11.    Slice the chicken breasts and mix the bits of chicken with the sauce.

12.    Serve topped with diced parsley and with croutons to smush the roasted garlic cloves onto.