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the wonders never cease

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

sprinkle paprika

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
[print recipe]
from Fine Cooking

4 lbs. chicken, whole or pieces (I used whole legs)
kosher salt
black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 lemon
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.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

braised beef short ribs braised lamb shanks with lentils chicken pot hand pies miso butter roast chicken

16 nibbles at “the wonders never cease”

  1. Lynn says:

    Everyone should have a daughter like you! How sweet! :)

  2. Kristin says:

    Mmm…this sounds and looks much better than the versions I’ve seen and tried. And congrats on the Le Creuset. I have pot envy! If you do decide to test basters, please let us know if you find a good one. I haven’t had one in years, because the last few had incontinence issues, and were completely useless. Thank you for the meteor shots. It seems to be a rule that it has to be cloudy whenever I remember and have the will to drag myself & my kids out to watch. And re not sleeping, my psych prof grandpa said that it’s the smart ones who don’t sleep. Maybe he was just trying to make my mom feel better, but it seems to run true in our family at any rate, and seems the same in yours!

  3. Suzanne says:

    I had a dinner party years ago where I made a double batch of James Beard’s version of this recipe – my friends said they could smell the garlic from down the street. We all enjoyed spreading the garlic on baguette slices and finished up every last clove, but the following morning I got a call from one of the couples – they couldn’t go to church because they were exuding too much garlic! Totally worth it, though!

    This is my first time commenting but I’ve been following your blog for at least 2 years – thank you for sharing your beautiful photography, prose and cooking skills!

  4. SAJ says:

    A Le Creuset changes the game. They perform so beautifully…and clean SO easily. Is yours marseille? It looks a touch darker than my dutch ovens. I started with the 9.5 oval and then my parents got me the 15.25 “goose pot”. They are in constant use! My all clad is starting to sit longer and longer between use. I got kinda sour on All Clad when one of my new pans buckled while I was searing a roast. I’m trying to stop myself from ordering one of the LC enameled cast iron roasters before Thanksgiving. We’ll see how that goes…

  5. SAJ says:

    PS-Basters. Bastard basters. I’ve quit trying to find a good one. I don’t believe there is a way to keep them clean and not nasty after a few uses. This is not haute cuisine, but I’ve been known to strain drippings or stock, add a touch of wine and use a spray bottle. It actually works pretty well. Sometimes it’ll clog with a stray herb silver though.
    PPS-I finally donated my hair a few weeks ago to Pantene Pro Lengths, per your post from a while ago.

  6. Christina @ but i'm hungry says:

    I love a good braise in the fall and winter… nothing better than yummy spells permeating your kitchen from a cast iron pot. And I love your method of de-fatting. It kinda rocks!

  7. Thalia @ butter and brioche says:

    WOW this braised chicken looks delicious! I bet your kitchen smelt amazing too when this was cooking.. definitely a recipe I need to create. Thanks for the inspiration..

  8. Joyce says:

    I do not know if you realize the pleasure you bring to people by your stories, photos and recipes. Like reading a good novel…..takes us away to another place of pure enjoyment. I am thankful for each time I open my inbox and find your articles have arrived. I get so many blogs but your’s is number one that I look for and read immediately. Thank you for all your hard work and know that we all are so thankful for it.

  9. Carla says:

    Yummmm….chicken with 40 cloves of garlic is my dads very favorite dish. Such a comforting dish!!

    Love, love, love your photos…you have great talent!! For your muscle kinks…get a foam roller…that really works..and they are cheap.

  10. Jan says:

    Why do the stars appear below the clouds in your photo? It is a very strange effect… Is it an overlay?

  11. Bev says:

    C40G is one of my all-time fav’s; I was so afraid of it being over-garlicly when I did it the first time but am totally a roasted-garlic fan now. Thanks for sharing your version–I know it’ll totally rock. Especially like the idea of smearing the garlic on the toasts. Too bad I’ll have to wait until tomorrow for it, sigh.

  12. jill says:

    Thank you for the beautiful nighttime “show”. Amazing how you’ve always been drawn to the sky.

    I’ve always wondered about the lid of my Le Creuset going in the oven, and now you’ve proven that black handle won’t melt. Thank you. I have the big RED one. Love it. I’m going to try braising chicken. This recipe with 40 cloves of garlic has TPH all over it! He’ll probably even ask…how about a few more?

    Isn’t “fond” a lovely word.

    xo, sorry about the shoulders and neck. Maybe a massage would be just what the doctor ordered. Oh, and you are an excellent Chinese daughter.

  13. magpie says:

    that plastic bag trick is clever! i actually have a fat separator – but i can imagine being in a vacation house (or being a guest somewhere) where there is no fat separator and…ding ding ding. ziplocs are cool. that chicken dish is a favorite of ours too.

  14. Maryw says:

    I found a vintage glass baster at an estate sale, and it works great :) cleans up well in the dishwasher. You could always use a bottle brush to clean it.

  15. jenyu says:

    Lynn – :)

    Kristin – I think I’m too lazy to test basters. I have so little patience for kitchen gadgets that don’t work or are poorly designed. A spoon works for me (more or less). I don’t think it’s quantity of sleep, but just uninterrupted deep sleep that I need :)

    Suzanne – ha!! That’s awesome (smelling the garlic down the street). I have never encountered the problem of exuding garlic with roasted garlic, just raw garlic. Interesting!

    SAJ – I still use my All Clad. It’s far far easier to handle and move around for photographs than the LC. I love both. I generally try to keep specific pans rather than a set of one brand. Congrats on the hair donation! I’m growing mine back out (unless I get impatient and chop it off again next summer).

    Christina – that’s a trick I learned from Fine Cooking, and I love it!!

    Thalia – you’re welcome!

    Joyce – you are so incredibly kind. Thank you. xo

    Carla – thanks for the tip. I got a foam roller, have been icing, taking advil, and getting sports massage. I *think* I’m on the mend (I hope!) :)

    Jan – it’s a long exposure and the clouds are thin – the stars are just shining through.

    Bev – :)

    jill – the booklet that came with the pot says the handles are good to 500°F. And I totally agree that more than 40 is a good idea!

    magpie – I used to have a super fancy fat separator that 1) took up too much space and 2) was impossible to clean. So I like this ziploc solution much more.

    Maryw – thanks for the tip!

  16. Jasline @ Foodie Baker says:

    Thank you for the defatting tip, will definitely try it out in the future!

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