Sunday, March 18, 2012
Ages ago when my husband and I lived in the city we took some cooking classes together. Well, kind of. The cooking classes were his Christmas present but he was kind enough to use a little of the gift card to take me to a few classes as well.
One of the classes we took was French inspired - Mussels with Tomatoes, Tarragon, White Wine and Cream, 40 Clove Garlic Chicken, a Celery Root Purée, and of course, Crème Brûlée. Everything was wonderful. Except the chicken. It was boring. Really boring. How could something with 40 cloves of garlic be anything but amazing?
The other day I came across our recipes from class. 40 Clove Garlic Chicken still makes my heart skip a beat and yet inside I know the sad truth: boring. I couldn't take it anymore. I hard to revise this recipe to be, well, at least something approaching the genius that the name implies.
Changes? About a million, give or take. First off, I roasted a whole chicken and skipped braising one that has been cut into eight pieces. Second, I've roasted the garlic first. Why? Because I am obsessed with roasted garlic lately, that's why. Plus, roasting softens the garlic and turns it into a buttery, sink-right-into-the-meat taste explosion. Or seriously, just skip the chicken and slather this on everything in sight, I kid you not.
Then I added lemon to brighten the flavor. Garlic on its own is lovely but it needs a friend to help it present itself as the powerhouse we all know and love. Finally, I cranked up the spices and puréed the whole thing...and this is where it all went so right it was wrong.
Nothing should taste as good as this garlic purée. Nothing. If you are smart you won't tell anyone about this recipe, you'll make the purée and then you'll slather it all over an entire loaf of bread and eat it all by yourself, every single one of those 40 cloves of garlic. Or you could just use a spoon, which I did. I have no shame.
If, though, you made the unfortunate decision to tell your family about the meal you could add the purée to your chicken, working it under the skin and slathering it all over the bird, and roast until a crispy golden perfection.
Then steal the bird, run away and eat it all with an entire loaf of bread. Or, again, just put the spread on anything you can locate within an arms reach.
My husband's reaction: "This is the best chicken I've ever had!" then he asked me to make it again and put it on "every vegetable we get in our CSA all summer long." I have to agree. Obviously, this could go one of two ways - you could use it for the best darn garlic bread/peas/carrots/mushrooms/celeriac/random vegetable ever, or you can use it on a chicken. Vegetarian, carnivore. Potato...oooh, it would be good on that too...
4-5 heads of garlic
2 oz or 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 smaller lemons)
Approx 3/4 - 1 cup Olive Oil
1 teaspoon salt + extra for seasoning
1/2 teaspoon pepper + extra for seasoning
1 Tablespoon Herbs de Provence + extra for seasoning (or use Italian Seasoning if you must, you know, I'm flexible)
1 3.5-4 lb Roaster chicken
1-2 cups Chicken stock, white wine, or beer (not porter/stout)
2-4 red potatoes (optional)
Preheat oven to 400°F
With a sharp knife cut about 1/4" off the top of the garlic cloves.
Place garlic heads, cut side up, in a smaller baking dish.
Then, if you are crazy, like I am, fish out the cut off garlic bits and add those to your baking dish as well. Just remember to remove them half-way through baking or you'll have deep fried garlic cloves. I use a slotted spoon or spider for this purpose.
Pour oil over the garlic into the dish until about 1/4" deep (about 3/4 - 1 cup)
Sprinkle a few grinds of salt, pepper and a few pinches of Herbs de Provence over the garlic.
Cover with foil and bake for 30-45 minutes.
Once the garlic is semi translucent and soft remove from the oven and let cool, in the pan.
Once the garlic is cool enough for you to handle go ahead and slide all the softened cloves out and into a food processor or bowl. You can use a small knife, spoon or utensil to remove the garlic if you like - I just use my hands. Keep the remaining skins/shells though - you'll see why.
Add the oil the garlic was roasted in, lemon juice, salt, pepper and herbs to the food processor. Reserve the spent lemons. You may reduce the oil by half or more if you like to make a thicker purée - I recommend this for vegetables, spreads and such - more oil is better for the chicken to keep the meat juicy and moist but otherwise reduce the oil and start with less when processing.
Purée until a smooth, buttery paste-like consistency. If you don't have a food processor just mash with a fork or potato masher until as smooth as your prefer.
Run away and eat. Or use for your bread...or chicken.
Preheat oven to 375°F
Rinse and pat your chicken dry. Loosen the skin at the back of the breast and fill the cavity between the breast and the skin with the garlic purée. Be generous.
Place the spent lemons inside the chicken cavity. Truss your chicken then slather with the remaining purée. Don't know how to truss a chicken? That's ok. This corny joke teller will show you how. Humor always helps, in my book.
Instead of using another pan I like to slice red potatoes in half then place the flat side down in the roasting pan from the garlic. Place the chicken on top of the potatoes and there you have it, a roasting tray. Add a few of the remaining garlic skins (because there is still a bit of garlic in there) around the chicken and pour your chosen liquid about half way up the potatoes - I like to use one of my husband's Octoberfest style homebrews.
Roast chicken for 45 minutes. Turn heat up to 425°F and roast another 20-30 minutes until the thickest part of the breast is 170°F. If the bird is browning more than your like cover with foil and continue to roast. Enjoy the red potatoes flavored with the cooking liquid as a side and add in something lovely and green for a complete meal.