Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic (what a mouthful!) is a classic French dish originated from Provence region. I first tried it at a French restaurant in Singapore and I was blown away. The chicken was tender, the gravy was thick and flavourful and the garlic was so soft and mushy.
Recreating the Deliciousness at Home
Recipe: There are many variations of Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic recipes out there. However, they all boil down to the same few basic ingredients – chicken, garlic and white wine. I ended up adapting the recipe by James Beard. First, I scaled it down for 2 people. James Beard’s recipe uses 40 garlic cloves and 8 chicken leg quarters for 4 people but it’s too much for us. Hence I scaled down the recipe to 2 chicken leg quarters instead. I’ve included the weight of the amount of chicken used for easier reference. This also means I only needed 10 garlic cloves. I added onion and carrot to add sweetness (would have added celery but none on hand). Potatoes would be good too if you want to bulk up the meal.
Most laborious task: Peeling the garlic of course! Some recipes don’t bother peeling, but I find it annoying having to get rid of the papery skin when I’m eating. If you don’t mind or are in a rush for time, you can leave the garlic unpeeled.
Searing the chicken: Unless I’m eating Hainanese Chicken Rice which prides on having the smooth and white skin, I would recommend searing the chicken for colour, flavour and presentation – after all we eat with our eyes first!
Liquids: As I used some of the wine to deglaze the pan (which will result in some of it being evaporated off), I used a bit more wine than stated in the original recipe. If you have no wine or avoiding alcohol, chicken stock can be used instead – but use less salt if your chicken stock is salted.
Results of My Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic
As expected after 1.5 hours of cooking, the chicken was tender and flavourful while the garlic soft and mushy. The garlic tastes mild and light and spreads like butter on bread.
But what surprises me is the gravy. The gravy was of a creamy-biege colour, thick (not super thick like those thickened with cream or flour) and so, so flavourful. No cream was used, so I have no idea what chemistry happened in the casserole dish that resulted in this delicious concoction, but it was super good and we mopped up every single drop of the gravy.
I served the chicken with crusty bread (definitely a must-have) and a simple salad with a mayo-based salad dressing. My favourite way of eating is to smush a clove of garlic on the bread, top with soft onion and some shredded chicken, and drizzle shamelessly with lots of gravy before popping it into my mouth. Let’s make it!
|1) Cut the chicken leg quarters into thighs and drumsticks: Use your fingers to feel for the joint between the thigh bone and the backone (drumstick bone). Use a sharp kitchen knife to cut along the joint (in between the two bones) - if you cut at the right spot, you won't require a lot of strength as you are not cutting through a bone.||2) Peel and slice the onion; peel and cut the carrot and celery (no celery today); and peel the garlic.|
|3) Rub chicken with oil and season with salt.||4) Sear in a very hot pan over medium-high heat. I'm using a stainless steel pan because my casserole cannot be heated directly over fire.|
|5) Sear until the chicken is golden all over.||6) Remove chicken and lower the heat. Add in more oil if needed (I did not need to) and add in onion. Cook until onion has softened.|
|7) Add in carrot and celery. Don't add in the garlic like me!||8) Add in half of the wine (or chicken stock) to deglaze the pot (the bits stuck at the bottom of the pan) - they add flavours to the stew!|
|9) Simmer until half of the liquid has evaporated off.||10) Remove from heat. At this point, I transfer all the vegetables into the casserole pot.|
|11) Stir in the dried herbs and black pepper.||12) Arrange the chicken nicely on top, skin side up. There's no more stirring involved, and you will serve the stew as it is, so make them look nice!|
|13) Add a touch more wine (or chicken stock) so there's enough sauce later on.||14) Sprinkle the garlic evenly in the casserole pot. Again, there won't be any more stirring invovled, so you don't want to serve the stew with the garlic all stuck in one spot. Season with just a little bit more salt.|
|15) Cover with the lid.||16) Wrap in foil - my guess is that it is to keep all the liquid in the pot. Bake for 1.5 hours at 190C / 375F.|
Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic
- 2-litre Dutch oven (see Note 1)
- 600 grams chicken leg quarters with skin and bone, see Note 2
- 2 tbsp light olive oil
- Sea salt
- 1 medium yellow onion peeled and sliced
- 1 medium carrot peeled (optional) and cut into 5-cm (2-inch) chunks
- 2 stalks celery cut into 5-cm (2-inch) pieces
- 125 ml dry white wine divided, see Note 3
- 1/4 tsp dried basil see Note 4
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 10 cloves garlic peeled and left whole, see Note 5
- Preheat oven to 190°C / 375°F.
- Cut the chicken leg quarters into thighs and drumsticks (see Note 6). Pat dry thoroughly with paper towel and transfer into a tray. Rub the chicken pieces with the 2 tbsp oil and season both sides with sea salt.
- Heat the Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When it is hot (water sprinkled into the pot should sizzle and evaporate immediately), add in the chicken, skin side down, in a single layer without touching each other and sear until the skin is golden, about 2 to 3 minutes. The skin should not stick to the pot if it's browned well enough. Flip and sear on the other side for another 2 minutes. You may have to hold the chicken drumsticks with a pair of tongs so that it browns all over. Once golden on all sides, remove chicken onto a plate and set aside. If you are making a bigger batch of the recipe, sear the chicken in batches, if needed.
- Lower the heat to medium-low. Add in a bit more oil if needed, then saute the onion until softened, about 1 minute. Add in carrot and celery to saute briefly. Stir constantly so the vegetables don't burn, lowering the heat if necessary. Add in 60ml (1/4-cup) of the wine and bring to a boil to deglaze the pot. Simmer until half of the liquid has evaporated off. Turn off the heat.
- Stir in the dried herbs and freshly ground black pepper into the onion mixture. Transfer the chicken into the pot, skin-side up, and pour in all of the chicken juices. Add in the remaining wine. Sprinkle the garlic evenly in the pot and season with a final light touch of salt. Cover with the lid and wrap the lid with an aluminium foil to make a tight seal (see Note 7).
- Bake for 1 hour 30 minutes without removing the lid (see Note 8)
. Serve hot, from the pot, with crusty bread to mop up the gravy and a salad to complete the meal.
- I don't have a Dutch oven, so I used a stainless steel pan to sear the meat, saute the vegetables then deglaze (up till Step 4). Then I transferred everything into an oven-safe casserole pot and proceed as per the recipe.
- On the chicken:
- I've indicated the chicken weight for easy reference. I used 2 chicken leg quarters which weigh about 270g to 300g each (with bone), which is just nice for 2 of us.
- The original recipe's serving size is 2 chicken leg quarters per person - so you may want to double the recipe if want and can eat more. Alternatively, bulk up the meal by adding potatoes.
- You can also choose to use all chicken thighs, chicken drumsticks or chicken parts.
- Dry white wine is any white wine that isn't sweet. The wine can be substituted in part or in whole with chicken stock. Do use less salt if your chicken stock contains salt.
- The original recipe calls for tarragon, but as I have none on hand, I used basil.
- The original recipe calls for the garlic to be crushed and peeled, but I left them whole so they do not disintegrate as easily when scooping them out. You can also leave the garlic unpeeled (which would save some prep time).
- Use your fingers to feel for the joint between the thigh bone and the backbone (drumstick bone). Use a sharp kitchen knife to cut along the joint (in between the two bones) - if you cut at the right spot, you won't require a lot of strength as you are not cutting through a bone.
- It wasn't explained in the recipe why there is a need to wrap with aluminium foil. My guess is that it is to keep all the liquid in the pot.
- The original recipe baking time is the same at 1h 30min and I did not reduce it for my attempt.
- Recipe adapted from The Essential James Beard Cookbook