Chicken is one of those ingredients, that can satisfy me the way no other meat can.
It can become just about anything you desire (if you like chicken, that is) and is the base for so many classic and iconic dishes.
Chicken Biryani, Coq au Vin, Chicken Satay, Chicken Piccata, Cacciatore, Fricassee, Chicken Cordon Bleu, I can go on and on. Chicken with 40 cloves of Garlic is another one of the great chicken dishes. It’s the best of a braise and a roast. It has plenty of wine and garlic that just melts as it cooks with the juices of the chicken. The aroma that emanates from the oven as the bird and garlic cook away is downright intoxicating. I have even wished that there was a candle out there that smells like this. I’m serious, tell me you wouldn’t want a candle that smelled like roast chicken? Or how ’bout Coffee? Baking Bread? Cinnamon Rolls, Roast Turkey dinner? I swear, these would make a fantastic series of candles. Anyone out there know how to make it happen?
Back to the chicken. Roast chicken and rice was a staple growing up. My mom made the best dish, where she took the juices from the chicken in the pot after it was done and resting, to cook up the rice. That rice tasted like nothing else I had or have ever had again. I can’t replicate, no matter how hard I try. I have come close. But maybe that rice also had love and memories cooked into it, and the recollection of that rice will have to suffice.
A classic chicken dish that we’ve eaten for decades is Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. I know, it sounds a tad excessive! 40 cloves!? Basically, four complete heads of garlic (the average head has 10 cloves in it) are broken into individual cloves which are cooked down with the chicken and become so sweet, and edible. We take those creamy cloves and spread them out on crusty bread that we serve with the chicken. The bread is also there to sop up the juices from the pan- too good to waste!
Jim also loves roasted onions and shallots. They take on a softer, sweeter note than the garlic, and are just so easy to eat as a side dish. See this highlighted in our Anniversary Pepper Crusted Stuffed Chicken Breasts recipe! So even when preparing the chicken and garlic cloves dish, I began to replace some of the garlic with shallots.
When I first came across Nigella Lawson’s chicken with lemons and garlic recipe in ‘Forever Summer’ I thought, of course I’m going to love this version! Everything we love, plus one more vital ingredient: lemon!! I made her version the first chance I got after bringing the book home. We loved how the wine, garlic and lemon worked together to create the juiciest, most aromatic chicken dish. It was a hit when I served it for company. But then I started to treat it the same way I had been cooking my original version. I added shallots and and plenty of rosemary.
The first part of the cooking of this dish is basically a slow braise. There is enough wine covering the meat, shallots and garlic that they cook perfectly without drying out in the slightest. Then the temperature is raised, and the tinfoil is removed, to bring colour to everything. At this point, your mouth will be watering, I promise you. And after the allotted cooking time Nigella states, I actually broil everything for a few more minutes, to bring some more colour to the dish. When it comes out of the oven, I will have you cover everything with a generous sprinkling of Maldon or other finishing salt. There is no salt in the dish up until now, and I firmly believe that salt is a requirement in this case. It brings out all the other flavours, and rounds out the meal. I have adjusted my recipe to serve 6. Even if there are only 4 of you at home, this is worthy of leftovers. If there are only two of you at home, just cut the recipe in half, and you will still have some leftovers!
As I used to do with my other chicken and garlic recipes, I serve a loaf of crusty bread along side the chicken. The chicken juices, the white wine, the thyme, rosemary, lemon and garlic all release their goodness into that liquid. It needs to be appreciated! In fact, there is usually more liquid leftover than everyone can actually partake of, so I put some of it aside, and as an homage to my mom, I save it to cook rice in! I will have to supplement it with more chicken stock, but the flavour is beyond epic! So I guess I have come full circle, and in a small way I am keeping my most favourite meal of my mom’s alive.
I have served this with roasted potatoes through the years. But in the past few years, I have also gone the rice route. Just not the way my mom did. I create more of an exotic, middle eastern rice to go with the chicken. (my mom would have had no idea of barberries!!) So to my rice (in the rice cooker, but you do you) I just add a healthy pinch of crushed saffron and perhaps 2 – 3 tbsp of dried barberries (from my stash in the freezer) Then as the rice cooks up, these two additions meld into the grains and create a perfect, tangy tart, yellow hued and fragrant rice. I can eat this rice on its own, any day of the week!!
So, chicken and rice. Chicken and garlic. Chicken and lemon. Chicken and shallots. Put them all together, and you have comfort food that is perfect any day of the year!!
Mediterranean Chicken with 20 Cloves of Garlic
Braised and then broiled, this chicken is tender, juicy and overflowing with flavours. Thanks to garlic, shallots, lemon, rosemary and thyme along with a braising liquid of white wine, this is pure comfort food, all year round! Include lots of crusty bread to soak up the juices!
- 6 chicken legs or 6-8 thighs, or a combination thereof
- 2 heads of garlic approximately 20 cloves, peeled
- 6-8 shallots cut in half, outer skins removed,
- 2 organic lemons scrubbed and cut into 8 pieces
- 2 tbsp freshly chopped rosemary
- 2 tbsp freshly chopped thyme
- 4 tbsp good olive oil
- 3/4 cup crisp white wine
- freshly cracked black pepper
- Maldon salt
Preheat the oven to 300F
Put the chicken pieces into a large roasting pan. Don't worry about how they are laying- you will be tossing them with the other ingredients beforehand.
Add the garlic cloves, the shallots, the lemon pieces, the rosemary and the thyme. Drizzle the olive oil evenly over everything. Toss it all together, massaging the oil into the chicken with your fingers, till everything is evenly coated. Lay out the chicken pieces with the skin side up, all the other ingredients evenly dispersed.
Pour the white wine evenly over everything.
Give several generous grinds of pepper over everything. Don't skimp! Pepper really works here.
Cover the roasting pan tightly with tin foil.
Place on a middle rack in the oven. Cook at this low temperature for a good 2 hours.
Remove the foil from the pan (Be prepared for the best aroma ever!)
Crank the heat up to 400F. Roast the chicken for another 35-45 minutes, until well browned. If you don't feel you've achieved that golden brown skin you desire, turn on the broiler element and move the rack to the top third of the oven. Watch as the heat gets the skin to where you want it. Be careful though, the shallot skins may not do well. If they are already caramelized nicely, remove them to a waiting platter, before moving the rack up.
When done, remove the chicken, shallots, garlic and lemon to a platter. Immediately sprinkle a lovely amount of Maldon or other finishing salt over everything. This is the only salting of the meal, so don't be overly skimpy.
You can also garnish with extra fresh thyme sprigs or rosemary.
Pour off the juices into a small bowl. Carefully skim off the fat. Serve this along side the chicken. Serve with copious amounts of crusty bread. I also serve rice or roasted potatoes on the side.