Chicken with a Thousand Cloves of Garlic
This recipe is featured in The Aroma of Comfort: Food, Scent, & Memory
Chicken with a Thousand Cloves of Garlic is my version of a traditional Provençal recipe known as Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic. Because my family adores roasted garlic, I usually made the recipe with several heads of garlic. My children loved the recipe, so for their amusement I began calling it Chicken with a Hundred Cloves of Garlic, and from there upped the exaggeration. If you like garlic, use as many cloves as you like; just remember that they must be unpeeled for roasting, and later peeled at the table.
This is a foolproof recipe with infinite variations. Begin with:
- One whole chicken of any size, cleaned, rinsed, and patted dry
- Salt and pepper, as needed
- Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
- Dried oregano (about 15 ml/1 tablespoon)
- Dried thyme (about 15 ml/1 tablespoon)
- Two whole heads of garlic, separated into cloves (do not peel)
- Preheat oven to 177° C (350° F). Put the chicken in a roasting pan and season generously with salt and pepper, not forgetting to season the cavity as well. Pour some olive oil over the chicken – don’t be stingy. Dump oregano and thyme over the top of the chicken; this is an instance when dried is better than fresh. Using your hands (this will be greasy), rub the herbs and oil together and all over the chicken inside and out. Put a handful of unpeeled garlic cloves inside the chicken, and rub them with oil and herbs. Scatter the remaining cloves outside the chicken and rub them, too, with the herby oil. Add more oil if needed.
2. This is where you can get creative, though I suggest trying this plain the first time you make it. If you like lemon, you can slide thin slices under the skin after first carefully loosening the skin without tearing it. Easier than that, take half a lemon, squeeze a little over the surface, and put the squeezed half in the cavity along with the garlic cloves.
3. Roast the chicken until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reads 74°C (165°F). After about 40 minutes, check the garlic cloves in the pan (outside the bird) by piercing one with the tip of a sharp knife. You want them to be brown on the outside and very soft in the center. Use a slotted spoon to remove them to a bowl when they are done.
4. Depending on the size of the chicken it may take 1 to 1 ½ hours. If you don’t have a thermometer, check for doneness by cutting the joint between the thigh and drumstick; the juices should run clear, with no pink or red. Return the garlic cloves to the pan and stir them so they are reheated. Cut the cooked chicken into serving pieces and serve each scattered with roasted garlic cloves. The garlic inside the bird may be eaten, but the cloves will not be as soft or as flavorful.