Sunday, January 03, 2010
Poulet aux quarante gousses d’áil or chicken with 40 cloves of garlic
Here's a dish that I made several times during last year - and hope to make again as soon as the fresh, new season's garlic appears on the market stalls in a couple of months. It's a dish that I had been intrigued by for ages - imagine, 40 whole garlic cloves to season just one chicken! - and when I finally made it, I fell instantly in love with it. When researching the dish, I came across several and very different versions. After making it several times, I've settled for this minimalist one. Just chicken, olive oil, lots of garlic and some salt'n'pepper. If you like your chicken with crispy skin and sticky, browned bits, then this version isn't perhaps for you, though you can always brown the chicken on a frying pan first and give it a short blast under the grill at the end.
The dish originates in Southern France, Provence, which is famed for its excellent olive oil and large, rosy-tinged garlic cloves. I love making this with young fresh garlic (see photo here), but it works with any garlic. Although the amount of garlic sounds somewhat over the top, then trust me and don't be tempted to choose some tiny garlic cloves. The bigger, the better here. Also, I'm sure the French would use a good extra virgin olive oil here, but if price is the issue, then any good olive oil works here.
Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic
(Kana 40 küüslauguküünega)
1 whole chicken, preferably free-range (about 1,5 kg)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
40 large garlic cloves (from 4-5 whole heads of garlic)
250 ml (1 cup) olive oil
fresh herbs of your choice (rosemary, sage, thyme, bay leaves)
First, prep your garlic cloves. When making this with fresh and young garlic cloves, then there's no need to peel them. During winter you should first blanch your garlic cloves in boiling water for 1 minute, then drain and remove the softened papery skins.
Using a kitchen paper, pat the chicken dry. Season generously with salt and pepper, both inside and out. Place the chicken, breast-side up, into a Dutch oven or heavy casserole dish where the chicken fits snugly (the better the fit, the less oil you need).
Push the garlic cloves and herbs around the chicken, pressing them down between the chicken and the dish.
Pour over the olive oil - check that all the garlic cloves are covered with oil.
Cover the saucepan and place into a preheated 180 C/360 F oven. Bake for 1 hour and 15-30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked.
To serve, carve the chicken into suitably large chunks. Serve with fresh green salad leaves and some wholemeal bread to mop up the delicious garlicky juices. Don't forget the softened and mellowed garlic cloves - these are the extra bonus of the dish. I love pressing them onto piece of bread.
* You can use the leftover garlicky olive oil to dress up a salad or serve as a seasoned frying oil during the next few days.