As I have already admitted, I am not generally a sauce person. But what I haven’t really told you is that it doesn’t stop with pizza sauce. Oh, no no. I pretty much always can do without sauce of any kind. Spaghetti sauce? No thank you, I’ll just have butter and cheese. I’d usually rather eat dry meat than put gravy on it. I never put barbecue sauce on my barbecue, which probably makes my parents shake their heads…”what did we do wrong?” (but hey, I used to never even eat barbecue, so we’ve made a lot of progress here, okay?)
But maybe my problem isn’t that I don’t like all sauces (chocolate being the obvious exception here), but that I don’t like certain sauces that include tomatoes or sauces that are too spicy, and really I just hadn’t had the right sauce yet.
So enter this recipe, which I discovered while watching Ina Garten probably almost a year ago, and which I made thinking Gerrit would enjoy the sauce part over some rice, and which I served to myself trying to drain as much of the sauce away from the chicken as possible because, well, that’s just what I do. And boy was that last part a mistake the first time I had this dish. Because the creamy buttery garlic sauce is what makes this dish. Not that the chicken braised with 40 cloves of garlic isn’t spectacular in and of itself…it’s juicy and tender and is infused with delicate garlic flavor, not at all too strong, but just perfect. But then we get to the sauce, and well, the sauce is probably the main reason I make this chicken now. It is creamy and sweet and buttery, with a background of wine and garlic, and to be honest I just cannot get enough of it on my chicken.
Not that long ago I finished reading Julia Child’s My Life In France, and I was absolutely captivated with the way she juxtaposed the simplicity and the luxury of fine food, how food is made fancy and impressive not because of what it is, but because of how it is cooked. And I think this is one of those recipes. For how amazing this chicken is, the ingredient list is quite uncomplicated. Some wine, some garlic, and some cream are main (and quite basic) components of the sauce, but like so many other great foods, it turns out to be so much more than that.
Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic
adapted from Ina Garten
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
3 heads of garlic (about 40 cloves)
8 pieces of chicken
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoon cognac (optional)
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1. To prep the garlic, separate the cloves. Over medium-high heat, bring several cups of water to boil in a small saucepan. When the water is boiling, drop the garlic in and let it remain for 60 seconds. Drain the garlic and set aside to cool for a couple of minutes. When the garlic is cool enough to handle, peel the cloves (because you boiled it for a minute, the peels should slide off relatively easy).
2. Set the chicken on a plate and blot dry with paper towels. Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper.
3. Heat butter and oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, place the chicken in, skin side down (it will most likely be necessary to do this in 2 or 3 batches). Allow the chicken to cook 3-5 minutes, until the skin is nicely browned. Use tongs or a spatula to turn the chicken, and allow it to brown on the other side as well.
4. When all of the chicken has browned on both sides, remove from the pot and lower the heat to medium. Add the garlic to the pot, cooking for 6-8 minutes, stirring often, until evenly browned. Add 2 tablespoons of cognac (optional) and the wine. Bring to a boil and use a wooden spoon to scrape away the brown bits from the bottom of the pot.
5. Return the chicken to the pot and sprinkle the top of it with the thyme. Cover the pot reduce heat to low. Allow the chicken to simmer for about 30 minutes, until it is cooked through.
6. Remove the chicken from the pot and cover with aluminum foil.
7. Ladle out about 1/2 cup of the sauce that remains in the pot and place in a small bowl. Whisk the flour into this 1/2 cup of sauce, and then whisk it all back into the pot. Raise the heat to medium and add 1 tablespoon of cognac (optional) and the cream. Bring to a boil and cook for 3 minutes, stirring often, until sauce has thickened. Stir in a pinch of salt and pepper.
8. Serve the chicken warm with the sauce poured over it.