Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

This dish was been all the rage lately in the blogging world. A handful of Food Network chefs (Ina Garten, Alton Brown) have created their own adaptations, and I’ve also seen various slow cooker recipes on the internet as well. With such a variety of versions available, it can be overwhelming to determine- which version is the best?
I turned to my favorite and failproof source- Cook’s Illustrated. And let me tell you- this version did not disappoint. Darin thought this was one of the best chicken dishes I’ve made. The chicken is roasted in a bed of roasted garlic and shallots, and the sauce is infused with additional roasted garlic, white wine, and chicken broth. The sauce was divine, and the chicken? The skin was crispy and golden brown, and the meat was tender and oh so flavorful. The recipe calls for a lot of garlic, but the flavor really mellows out when it’s roasted. Taste-wise, it was an excellent dish.

Prep work- The preparation of this dish was fairly simple, but there was a brining process and roasting garlic process involved. The recipe states to brine the chicken for 30 minutes- I made the brine mixture (an easy salt and cold water mixture) and placed the chicken into the brine liquid in the morning before I left for work, and completed the recipe when I returned home. I also roasted the garlic in the morning (while I was getting ready for work).

Whole chicken?- To ease the recipe, you can purchase a whole chicken pre-chopped in the meat department or do I what did- use skin-on chicken thighs.

Overall result: Although there was some initial prepwork, it was easy and took no time at all. This was an elegant dish that tasted heavenly.

CI note: Try not to purchase heads of garlic that contain enormous cloves; if unavoidable, increase the foil-covered baking time to 40 to 45 minutes so that the largest cloves soften fully. A large Dutch oven can be used in place of a skillet, if you prefer. Broiling the chicken for a few minutes at the end of cooking crisps the skin, but this step is optional. Serve the dish with slices of crusty baguette for dipping into the sauce and onto which the roasted garlic cloves can be spread.

Table salt
1 whole chicken (3-1/2 to 4 pounds), cut into 8 pieces (4 breast pieces, 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks) and trimmed of excess fat (Used skin-on chicken thighs for ease and flavor)
Ground black pepper
3 large heads garlic (about 8 ounces), outer papery skins removed, cloves separated and unpeeled
2 medium shallots, peeled and quartered pole to pole
1 Tbsp olive oil, divided
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
¾ cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Dissolve ¼-cup salt in 2 quarts cold tap water in large container or bowl; submerge chicken pieces in brine and refrigerate until fully seasoned, about 30 minutes. Rinse chicken pieces under running water and thoroughly pat dry with paper towels. Season both sides of chicken pieces with pepper.
2. Meanwhile, toss garlic and shallots with 2 teaspoons olive oil and salt and pepper to taste in 9-inch pie plate; cover tightly with foil and roast until softened and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes, shaking pan once to toss contents after 15 minutes (foil can be left on during tossing). Uncover, stir, and continue to roast, uncovered, until browned and fully tender, 10 minutes longer, stirring once or twice. Remove from oven and increase oven temperature to 450 degrees.
3. Using kitchen twine, tie together thyme, rosemary, and bay; set aside. (I didn’t use twine; instead I chopped the herbs and set them aside.) Heat remaining 1-teaspoon oil in 12-inch heavy-bottomed ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat until beginning to smoke; swirl to coat pan with oil. Brown chicken pieces skin-side down until deep golden, about 5 minutes; using tongs, turn chicken pieces and brown until golden on second side, about 4 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to large plate and discard fat; off heat, add vermouth, chicken broth, and (chopped) herbs, scraping bottom of skillet with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Set skillet over medium heat, add garlic/shallot mixture to pan, then return chicken, skin-side up, to pan, nestling pieces on top of and between garlic cloves.
4. Place skillet in oven and roast until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of breast registers about 160 degrees, 10-15 minutes. If desired, increase heat to broil and broil to crisp skin, 3 to 5 minutes. Using potholders or oven mitts, remove skillet from oven and transfer chicken to serving dish.
5. Remove 10-12 garlic cloves to mesh sieve and reserve; using slotted spoon, scatter remaining garlic cloves and shallots around chicken. With rubber spatula push reserved garlic cloves through sieve and into bowl; discard skins. Add garlic paste to skillet. (We removed all the roasted garlic and added it to the dutch oven.)
6. Bring liquid to simmer over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally to incorporate garlic; adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Whisk in butter; pour sauce into sauceboat and serve.

Source: Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated


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