Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Nigella's Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic: Comfort Food Extraordinaire

Here in all it's browned, slightly crispy-skinned, moist and tender glory is Nigella's Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic. The recipe that begat the Garlicky Chicken Soup I posted on Sunday. Easy, flavorful comfort food at its best and a great example of the recipes in Lawson's newest cookbook "Nigella Kitchen."

I vowed I was not going to buy this book due to having way too many cookbooks (yes, I am finding there may likely be such a thing as having too many cookbooks), but I have to blame this purchase on the mouthwatering review of the book that girlichef posted recently. I thought maybe I would just take a peek at it even though I wasn't going to buy it... That was followed by finding the book on sale for 50% off, having an additional 25% off coupon, and finally adding in my 10% membership discount at Barnes and Noble. I love a bargain and how could I resist getting this one for less than $12.00? I took it as a sign. ;-) The book is already covered with colored tabs of the different recipes I want to make but this recipe caught my eye and I knew I had to make it first.

The recipe can be found at Food network here and in "Nigella Kitchen" on pgs 326-329

Nigella says, "When I was young, this old French classic was still - though in a quiet way - very much in vogue. I dare say it was because the novelty of using so many garlic cloves had not worn off; it seemed somehow dangerously excessive. Even so, I don't think anyone would think it quite unremarkable now to put 40 cloves of garlic in a casserole. Certainly, if you peeled and chopped - let alone minced - the garlic, it would be inedible, but garlic cloves cooked encased in their skins grow sweet and caramelly as they cook, like savory bonbons in their sticky wrappers, rather than breathing out acrid heat. This is a cozy supper, not a caustic one.

It is not quite the classic version (not that there is only one: food is as variable as the people who cook it) but it sticks to the basic principles. Maybe because the white meat on chicken tends towards the utterly tasteless these days, I prefer to use not a whole chicken, but thigh portions only. Naturally, this wouldn't make sense if you were raising your own chickens, then slaughtering them for the pot, as was the custom when this recipe came into being (and very good it would have been, too, for adding oomph to an old bird) but if you're following the contemporary shopping model, it works very well. For some reason, I veer towards recipes that can easily be cooked in one of my wide and shallow cast-iron Dutch ovens and this fits the bill perfectly.

By all means, add some steamed or boiled potatoes alongside if you wish, but I'd prefer, by far, a baguette or two to be torn up and dunked into the flavorsome juices; though don't rule out the option of sourdough toast, which is the perfect vehicle for spreading the sweet-cooked garlic onto. Otherwise, some green beans or baby peas or a plain green salad is all you need for a sure-fire salivation-inducing supper.

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic
From "Nigella Kitchen" by Nigella Lawson
(4 to 6 Servings)

2 tablespoons regular olive oil
8 chicken thighs (with skin on and bone in), preferably organic
1 bunch or 6 scallions
8 to 10 sprigs fresh thyme
40 cloves garlic (approximately 3 to 4 heads), unpeeled
2 tablespoons dry white vermouth or white wine
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt or 3/4 teaspoons table salt
good grinding pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat the oil on the stovetop in a wide, shallow ovenproof and flameproof Dutch oven (that will ultimately fit all the chicken in one layer, and that has a lid), and sear the chicken over a high heat, skin-side down. This may take 2 batches, so transfer the browned pieces to a bowl as you go.

Once the chicken pieces are seared, transfer them all to the bowl. Finely slice the scallions, put them into the Dutch oven and quickly stir-fry them with the leaves torn from a few sprigs of thyme.

Put 20 of the unpeeled cloves of garlic (papery excess removed) into the pan, top with the chicken pieces skin-side up, then cover with the remaining 20 cloves of garlic. Add the vermouth (or white wine) to any oily, chickeny juices left in the bowl. Swish it around and pour this into the pan too. Sprinkle with the salt, grind over the pepper, and add a few more sprigs of thyme. Put on the lid and cook in the oven for 1 1/2 hours.

Make Ahead Note: Chicken can be browned and casserole assembled 1 day ahead. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator. Season with salt and pepper and warm the pan gently on the stovetop for 5 minutes before baking as directed in recipe.

Making Leftovers Right: If I do have any chicken left over - and I don't think I've ever had more than 1 thigh portion - I take out the bone then and there and put the chicken in the refrigerator. Later (within a day or two), I make a garlicky soup, by removing the chicken, adding some chicken broth or water to the cold, jelled juices, placing it over a high heat and, when that's hot, shredding the chicken into it and heating it through thoroughly, till everything is piping hot. You can obviously add rice or pasta. Otherwise, mash any leftover garlic into the concentrated liquid (which will be solid when cold), chop up some leftover chicken, and put it all into a saucepan with some cream. Reheat gently until everything is piping hot, and use as a pasta sauce or serve with rice.

Notes/Results: Really good--so much delicious flavor. The garlic is so sweet, mellow and creamy and the juices from the steaming (I used white wine), flavored with the scallions and thyme are delectable. My only beef is that I would have liked a bit more "sauce" with this one as good as it tastes--so next time I might add a bit more wine or a little chicken stock to get more of the sauce factor. I ate this simply with slices of soft baguette to smear the garlic on and enjoy with the tender chicken. In fact if serving this for company, I would just give everyone their own small baguette to eat with their chicken and creamy garlic. The next night, I smashed/mashed a couple of potatoes and mixed them with some of the garlic puree to accompany the chicken. Then of course there was the soup--homey and excellent. I will definitely make this again.

This is good, warming, soul-filling food so I am sending it along to the Hearth 'n Soul Blog Hop hosted by girlichef and some other wonderful bloggers like A Moderate Life, Hunger and Thirst, and Frugality and Crunchiness wth Christy, and Alternative Health and Nutrition News. Check out the round up for all kinds of fabulous recipes.

BTW: If you have not had a chance to go over to the Ile de France Cheese site and vote for my Ile de France Camembert Sliders, I would love it if you would. My cheesy mini burgers are in the Top 10 Finalists in the Cheese Lover's Choice Fan Voting Category and I could sure use your vote. If you click here, it leads to the site where you can give me (Deb C. on the poll) the number of "stars" you think appropriate for my dish. (Of course I won't turn down any 5 star votes. ;-) lol) Voting is open until January 5th. Mahalo!



  1. I bought this cookbook on a whim recently as well and, though I haven't made anything from it yet, I've been flipping through it and bookmarking it like a mad woman. Perhaps this chicken with 40 cloves shall be my first recipe from it...hmmm. Looks wonderful!

  2. Smearing garlic on baguette sounds so decadent! This looks gorgeous. As I knew it would after seeing the soup!

  3. Why, oh why, did I buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts? I want to make this tonight, but will have to postpone until I've shopped. I can almost smell it here!

  4. If you have any bread and garlic left over, I'll gladly take them off your hands!

  5. My mouth is watering! I LOVE garlic. I think that you can never have enough. Do you have a "Stinking Rose" where you live? I'm not sure if it's a chain but we have one here and it's a restaurant that features garlic. It's in every dish, even dessert! They are famous for their garlic ice cream.
    This dish looks amazing and I can see why it made you run out and get this cookbook! I have an evergrowing cookbook collection also. What's your favorite? I'm always looking for good ones to add to my library.

  6. Oh how I love Nigella's recipes. Looks delicious.
    I voted for you. Hope you win!

  7. That chicken sounds wonderful for sure! Will go vote for you.

  8. Mmmm so many garlic=heaven for me! :) Looks wonderful!

  9. Wow! That chicken sounds like the bird of the week to me. Destined for our table. I love stinking garlic.

  10. Do I even need to tell you that Chicken w/ 40 cloves is one of MY all-time favorite meals? MMMMMMM! My mouth is totally watering...OH, and I'll gladly accept responsibility in this purchase ...you know you love it ;-P

  11. p.s...thanks for sharing this w/ the hearth and soul hop this week, Deb :)

  12. The caramelized garlic looks like a good accompaniment for a crusty buttery bread. This looks like a good traditional French country meal, and I like that this dish could be stretched to make two meals. The garlic can also be integrated into mash potatoes.

  13. You got a great deal on the Nigella cookbook! Nigella Kitchen looks like it's one of her best cookbooks yet. I don't have it yet, but NEED to get it:) Chicken with 40 cloves is something I've always wanted to make. It just screams flavor, doesn't it? Looks fantastic Deb.

  14. Mmmmm.....That sounds like a tempting dish sure to wake up sleeping tastebuds. Delicious!! Thanks so much for sharing with the Hearth and Soul hop.

  15. The book is a real gem - I was gifted a copy for Christmas and love it! I can't wait to make this and the soup with the leftovers. How utterly delicious!


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