Recipe: braised chicken with forty cloves of garlic
As a result of hoisting that 500mm telephoto lens around while chasing after or running from bull elk a few weeks ago and then processing client photos for hours on end at the computer, my shoulder and neck have been sources of unrelenting pain. The night of the Orionids meteor shower peak, I half wished to be clouded out so I could try to get a proper night’s rest since the previous morning, I woke up at 3 am to make and pack Jeremy’s breakfast and lunch for his flight to the East Coast. But the skies were clear and dark, and the stars were so sparkly and beautiful. I managed a 2-hour nap and then wandered around the house at 1 am with the red lantern of my headlamp illuminating where my socks were, where my hat was, grabbing the tripod and camera and remote cord to set up on the deck. I checked weather radar and muttered a few choice words under my breath at the neighbor who had left their flood light on.
I tiptoed back inside to grab a sleeping bag and my pillow. I don’t know what it is about the dark that makes me feel like I have to sneak around quietly in my own empty house. Once I settled onto the deck, I listened to my shutter release tick off every 30 seconds. In between actuations, I heard a critter down on the ground, chewing on something. Then I noticed that my neighbor had finally shut their light off. Thank you. It was windless, dark, and silent (except for that animal having a midnight snack). Click-click. I saw a meteor streak across the sky like a dancer. Then a smaller one in my peripheral vision. Was that out of my camera’s field of view? Click-click. In all, I witnessed about 30 shooting stars before the clouds materialized from the east. I could feel the air turn damp against my cheeks as the moisture stretched across more and more of the sky. Pulling my hat down around my head, I looked at the time. 3:34 am.
a fireball on the horizon
Night photography in Nederland isn’t so great because Boulder creates a lot of light pollution to the east, and downtown Ned (if you can call it downtown) has a lot of annoying lights too. But I just love that I can step out onto my deck and lie down, looking up at the sky. That’s so much easier than when we lived in Southern California and had to drive 4 hours to the nearest proper dark skies location in the Mojave Desert. If it’s really really cold, I can duck back into the house for a cup of hot cider or a down jacket. Meteor showers make me feel like a kid – and every kid should experience at least one, if not many, meteor showers. I used to leave my curtains open at night when I was in elementary school, so I could watch the moon cross the sky. My dad would always come into the room before he went to bed to close the curtains. Sometimes I would wait til he left and open them back up. Sometimes I would pipe up and say, “Leave the curtains open, Daddy!” First he would scold me for not being asleep (I had trouble sleeping, I really liked being awake in general), then he would say, “If you keep staring at the moon, you will turn into a lunartic.” Sharing geek jokes with my dad late at night is a treasured childhood memory.
clouds reflecting light from town, orion in the upper left, the pleiades in upper center
My parents are back in Boulder tonight (Wednesday). They landed in Denver on the late side, so I prepared dinner for them and left it in their refrigerator earlier in the day. I made kale salad, tomato soup, and braised chicken with forty cloves of garlic. The chicken was cooked in my new Dutch oven. I’ve always been an All-Clad stainless steel girl, but this Le Creuset round wide (6.75 quarts) pan was calling my name. I can’t believe I resisted getting one for this long and now… I can’t believe I resisted getting one for this long!
they even had my favorite color
braises so beautifully
I’ve never made chicken with forty cloves of garlic before, although I had heard about it for years and always figured I’d make it in a slow cooker. It’s probably awesome in a slow cooker, but I am really loving the braises right now. Rather than dealing with a whole bird, I went for whole legs because we’re 100% fans of dark meat in this house.
olive oil, sauvignon blanc, pepper, chicken broth, parsley, thyme, rosemary, lemon, chicken, garlic, paprika, salt
to peel or not to peel?
Don’t be put off by the amount of garlic. It’s all quite mellow and wonderful – not caustic as one might expect. You can leave the garlic cloves unpeeled, or you can peel them for a slightly stronger garlic flavor. I’m all for more garlic flavor and the cloves wind up as smooth, creamy, nutty nuggets either way. Winner winner chicken dinner.
season with salt and pepper
brown in oil
discard excess oil but keep the browned bits on the bottom of the pan
Even though I could only reasonably fit seven of the eight chicken legs into the pot, I stubbornly insisted on the eight. It made the browning process somewhat inefficient, but I didn’t want to deal with cooking in batches. I probably could have gotten a bigger and better sear on the chicken if I had just accepted that eight was one too many. With the chicken browned, you can deglaze the pan with some wine to make sure you get all of the flavorful fond stuck on the bottom of the pan. Go ahead and add the garlic too.
pouring the wine into the pan
simmer the garlic
arrange the chicken on top of the garlic
add the herbs and chicken broth
Bring the liquid to a boil and then cover the Dutch Oven and move it from the stove top to the oven. Check the chicken every 20 minutes and give it a basting with the juices. I don’t own a squeeze-suck baster contraption, so I used a spoon. It’s inefficient, but it works. Maybe I’ll break down and get the squeezy baster if I start basting a lot. Once the chicken reaches 160°F, remove the cover and let it roast another 10 minutes. My chicken was 175°F when I removed the cover. I’m more worried about internal temperatures when I’m grilling or roasting, but braising retains a lot of moisture, keeping the chicken quite juicy.
cover the dutch oven
remove the chicken
and the garlic
Set the chicken and garlic aside and keep them warm under a foil tent. Meanwhile, discard the herbs, gather the liquid, and if you feel like it, reserve 10 cloves of garlic for mashing. Making gravy from the liquid and drippings is one of my favorite things to do, but adding mashed roasted garlic is sort of like the cherry on top. Defat the liquid however you like, but my favorite method is to pour it into a ziploc bag and hold it so everything collects in one corner. The fat rises to a layer on top. By cutting a little slit in the bottom of the corner, the juices drain out first. Then you pinch it closed before the fat drains out. Easy peasy.
herbs, liquid, and some reserved roasted garlic
mash the garlic
defat the liquid
stir in the garlic and simmer
add lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste
This makes a wonderfully homey and comforting meal. While the chicken was delicious, my favorite part was the garlic spread on baguette toasts. Next time I make this, I’ll probably reduce the rosemary to one sprig. I like rosemary in most instances, but I don’t like too much rosemary. Your mileage may vary. I’m certain the slow-cooker version (place everything in the crock pot and let it cook) is far far easier, but I like this braising method and the deep flavors that come out of it.
serve the chicken with red kale salad, baguette toasts, and gravy on the side
good enough for a dinner party
Braised Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic
from Fine Cooking
4 lbs. chicken, whole or pieces (I used whole legs)
black pepper, freshly ground
1/4 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika
2 tbsps olive oil
40 cloves garlic, peeled or unpeeled (up to you)
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary (I prefer 1)
2 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
baguette for serving
Preheat the oven to 400°F and set the rack in the center. Pat the chicken dry, season (both inside and out if whole chicken) with 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper, then sprinkle paprika over it. Squeeze the lemon juice into a vessel and reserve. If preparing a whole chicken, place the used lemon half in the cavity. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, place the chicken breast-side or meaty-side down and brown for about 2 minutes. Flip the bird (ha!) and brown another 2-3 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate and drain off the oil in the pot (but keep the brown bits!). Return the pot to medium-high heat. Add the garlic cloves and the wine, stirring the bottom of the pot to deglaze the fond. Place the chicken in the pot on top of the garlic, with the breast-side or meaty-side up. Add the herbs and broth. Bring to a boil. Cover the pot and transfer it to the oven.
Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, basting every 20 minutes, until a meat thermometer registers 160°F in the thickest part (usually the thigh). Remove the cover and let the chicken cook for another 10 minutes or until the thermometer reads 165°-170°F. Move the chicken and garlic to a plate. I reserved about 10 of the garlic cloves to mash for the gravy. Discard the solids from the pot and defat the drippings. My favorite method for defatting the drippings is to let them cool a bit, then pour everything into a gallon ziploc bag. Hold by one of the top corners so everything collects in a bottom corner. In a minute or so, the fat will rise to the top. Hold the bag over your pot (but low enough so it doesn’t squirt all over the work area) and take a sharp knife to puncture the bottom corner. Let the drippings drain into the pot (use the knife tip to move any pepper bits that might clog it up) and then pinch it closed with your fingers before the fat drains out. Discard the bag and the fat.
Stir the mashed garlic into the drippings. Bring the drippings to a boil over medium-high heat then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes. Season the gravy with salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste. Serve with the chicken (carved or as pieces) and toasted slices of baguette. Serves 4-6.
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