“Trapped! Yes sir, trapped! Into frittering his life away being nurse-maid to a lot of garlic eaters!” – Mr. Potter
I smirk whenever I hear Mr. Potter say this during It’s a Wonderful Life. Not only because it was Frank Capra’s way of thumbing his nose at bigotry, but because it shows how much American tastebuds have changed in just a short amount of time. The movie was created in 1946, a time when garlic was consumed mostly in Europe, Asia and Africa. It’s hard to think what American dishes tasted like without garlic (in fact, I don’t want to think about it!)
A lot of people give credit to Italian cuisine for introducing garlic to the American diet. While I tend to agree, I think credit also needs to be shared with French cooking, particularly by way of Chefs Julia Child and James Beard. Both Julia and James embraced French cuisine and made it easy for Americans to relate to — simply by making classic recipes new, exciting and fun.
Child and Beard made Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic into a trendy dish during the 1960’s and 70’s. The idea of peeling so many cloves of garlic challenged and excited the hands of home cooks, but even more so, was the idea that this strange, bitter, odor filled bulb would transform itself into culinary liquid gold. “A recipe I taught in my classes for many years,” Beard said, “and one that never failed to astonish the students because the garlic cloves become so mild and buttery when they’re cooked through!”
Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic is a classic French dish that is served in many brasseries and countryside kitchens. What I love about this dish is the simple, warm presentation of chicken in a rich, savory sauce — only to be met by the sensation of soft creamy garlic that will melt on your tongue and spread easily on your chicken or even bread. I recommend serving this with a freshly baked baguette. You won’t need any butter, as the garlic and sauce are rich on their own. And yes, peel the 40 cloves of garlic yourself. It’s easier than you think. C’est tout!
P.S. I leave this week for Paris. Time for some relaxation and inspiration. I’ll write when I return. Au revoir!
Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic
Serves 2 people
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 legs of chicken, skin-on, bone-in (drumstick and thigh separated)
20 cloves of garlic (about 2 bulbs) peeled
*use 40 cloves if using a whole chicken
4 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 cups cognac
2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons butter
Salt and Pepper to taste
- Heat a heavy stockpot or dutch oven with the olive oil over medium high heat. Salt and pepper the chicken generously. When the oil is hot, add the chicken to the pot and cook until golden brown on all sides. Use tongs to turn the chicken easily. When chicken is toasted (about 10 minutes) remove from stockpot and set aside.
- Add 2 tablespoons of butter to the pot along with all the garlic and lower the heat. Stir quickly until the garlic is fragrant, about one minute. Add the chicken stock along with 1 cup of the cognac and all the thyme. Stir with a wooden spoon to pick up any brown bits at the bottom of the pot. Return the chicken and all the juices to the pot.
- Once the liquid begins to simmer, bring the heat to low then cover the pot with a lid and allow to simmer for 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. After cooking, remove the chicken from the pot and set aside.
- Turn the heat up to medium high. In a small bowl, mix the flour and one cup of the hot broth to make a slurry. With a whisk, slowly whisk the slurry into the stockpot. Add the remaining cognac to the broth along with the cream. Stir and adjust seasonings. Allow the mixture to boil, reduce and thicken, about 6 minutes. During the last minute, add the remaining tablespoon of butter.
- Serve the chicken with the gravy and garlic cloves, along with fresh baguette. When dining on this, you are encouraged to smear the soft garlic onto the chicken or onto your bread. It’s liquid gold, trust me. Bon appetit!