I felt inspired to make a version of the classic chicken with 40 cloves of garlic after reading about someone's recipe in this week's New York Times. Mine is different--less of a crispy saute and more of a chicken pot-au-feu in texture. The garlic is super soft and not as browned. I wanted to make special dinner because Melanie was leaving to run the New York City Marathon over the weekend and Jeremy was going along to cheer her on (in fact, she is running it right now as I am writing this and she is making great time! go, Mel, go!) and I'm traveling to a conference this whole week so it was to celebrate and also because we're not going to see each other for a little while. So I figured we'd eat something particulary delicious, full of protein for a runner, and super-garlicky to keep the competition back several paces.
Before I tell you about the 40 clove chicken, I need to tell you about our appetizers because they were really tasty. Melanie had brought us some really great cherry preserves from her trip to the Bay Area last week so we made goat cheese crostini--slice a baguette into thin rounds, rub a little olive oil on them, top with a slice of goat cheese, salt, pepper and a sprinkle of parsley. Toast in the oven at 350 until the bread is slightly crispy and the goat cheese is warm--about 10 minutes. Pull them out and dab a little cherry preserve on top. We also had an entire head of roasted garlic--just to fully embrace the theme of the evening. This is an easy and delicious thing that you will want to make over and over again. Take an entire head of garlic and slice off the top 1/2" so that the cloves are exposed. Rub it all over with olive oil. Put it in a small ovenproof dish of some kind, like a ramekin. Pour in about 1/3 cup of white wine, drizzle over a little more olive oil, sprinkle with parsley, salt and pepper and put a healthy tablespoon of butter on top of the garlic head. Stick it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes-1 hour. Occasionally you can baste it or roll it around in the cooking liquid in the bottom of the baking dish. It is done when the garlic cloves are as soft as butter when you prod them with a knife. Take it out, warn everyone that the dish is hot and serve with good bread. You eat it by taking a clove off the head and squeezing out the roasted garlic onto slices of bread. The wine-butter-olive oil in the bottom of the baking dish is also completely delicious to mop up with the bread.
Now for the chicken. This is VERY easy and you will want to make it often because it is delicious. Get a large chicken--mine was about 5 pounds--and have your butcher cut it up into 10 pieces. Or just buy it cut up already, I don't care how you do it. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and set aside. In a large dutch oven (or any other big heavy pot), melt 2 tablespoons butter with 2 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. When it is hot but not smoking, add the chicken pieces (you will probably need to do this in 2 batches) and brown them in the hot butter/olive oil, 5 minutes on each side. Remove all the chicken after this initial browning step and turn your heat down to medium. Add an unbelievable quantity of peeled garlic cloves. If you feel like actually peeling up 3 heads of garlic, be my guest, but I went ahead and bought one of those containers you find in the refrigerated part of the produce section--there's a company that sells plastic bottles of pre-peeled garlic. I think I used one that was 6 ounces of garlic--you can use even more if you want! Anyway, take your peeled garlic cloves and toss them around in the hot fat at the bottom of the pot until they get a little browned, then cover them with all your chicken pieces so it is a layer of garlic, then a chicken stack on top. Let it cook for about 10 minutes like this then add 3/4 cup of chicken stock and 3/4 cup of white wine. I wasn't measuring very accurately and I daresay it doesn't matter a whole helluva lot. Stir it around every now and then and let it cook for about 30 minutes then fish out all your chicken pieces onto a serving platter and put them in the oven to keep warm. Take a look at the cooking liquid left behind in your pot--is it thin or thick? You want it to get sort of reduced and it should be, after cooking uncovered for 30 minutes, But if it is still really liquidy, turn up the heat and stir it around until it is a bit thick. This sauce here is so delicious it will make you want to slap somebody. When it is a saucey consistency, take it off heat and pour it over your chicken pieces on their serving platter--turn the chicken pieces over so they get nice and coated in the sauce and be sure to pour more over and fish out the soft garlic cloves when you serve it. We had the usual toasted large grain couscous on the side to maximize the potential of the delicious garlic clove sauce. Rice or potatoes or anything else starchy that floats your boat would be good too.
We also had a good salad--mixed greens tossed with a thinly sliced head of fennel. Topped this with sliced goat cheese, pomegranate seeds and toasted almonds. Tossed all together with a dressing made with equal parts olive oil to champagne vinegar, 1 teaspoon sugar, salt and pepper. It was delicious.