Forty Clove Garlic Chicken
Classic fricassee popularized after World War II still holds up as one of the most delicious ways to prepare poultry.
You know, sometimes the best-laid plans...well, here’s what happened recently in the kitchen.
While preparing a whole chicken to roast with aforementioned garlic cloves, during the oven’s preheating, I heard a POP and saw a flame. Quickly turning off the oven, I kept the door closed and the flame quickly died while the oven began its cool down. But I’d just finished trussing the chicken and now had no oven in which to cook it.
Although I confirmed it was safe to still use the cook top of my ancient electric stove, I wasn’t totally comfortable with that being on for a couple of hours. So, I pulled out my slow cooker and found this recipe online from BettyCrocker.com.
Facing the beautiful, trussed chicken, I now was tasked with breaking it down (ugh) and removing the skin. Next was peeling the garlic. Actually, that took longer than breaking down the chicken. I had to omit the cognac because I didn’t have any on hand.
What this recipe has in its corner is convenience. Few things say comfort food like a good chicken dish, and smelling the chicken and garlic coming together in the slow cooker was frankly intoxicating. It perfumed the entire house. This would be a great weekday meal, a set-and-forget dish that works while you’re busy with errands or work around the house. Because the cooking time is four hours, I wouldn’t leave it on while away for the entire day; the chicken will fall apart and the garlic will disintegrate.
Traditional 40 Clove Garlic Chicken is really a traditional French fricassee that was popularized in the post World War II era by legendary cookbook authors like Richard Olney and James Beard. The chicken, usually cut into various parts, simmers in a heady sauce made with stock, wine, and of course, garlic. When it’s ready to eat, the dish is served with grilled French bread that’s perfect for dipping in that sauce. The garlic is cooked in its skins, squeezed, and spread on the bread.
A fricassee involves first browning the chicken in butter in a skillet before popping it into the oven (or in this case, the slow cooker).
I’ve made the dish traditionally and now in the slow cooker, but I prefer the traditional fricassee. Here's why.
Uses drumsticks and thighs which have more flavor and hold up better to longer cooking periods.
Doesn’t require peeling garlic, keeping the cloves more intact.
Requires flouring the chicken before placing in roasting pan. For crispier chicken, leave the casserole uncovered while in the oven; just remember to baste it once or twice. I think this helps to thicken the sauce a bit.
The sauce never thickened in the slow cooker. I know it’s not supposed to have a gravy consistency, but I would have liked a bit more body. The recipe’s directions included boiling the sauce on the stove top for two minutes until it reduced, but that didn’t turn out for me. And I noted the garlic and the chicken breasts cooked almost to nothing, but the dark meat held up nicely.
Still, slow cooker version is more than adequate and produced good flavors; I’ll just have to reduce the sauce before reheating the chicken for supper, an extra step, but worth it. I hope you give this recipe a try; if you decide to bake it instead of using your slow cooker, 375 degrees for 90 minutes in a covered casserole (or foil-covered oven-safe skillet) will do the trick. If you want a crispier chicken, roast uncovered.
If you’d like to try the traditional fricassee, this basically is James Beard's recipe
(published in the New York Times) but we floured the chicken first and roasted uncovered at 400 degrees.
Traditional 40 Clove Garlic Chicken
8 servings/cooking time 1 hour 40 minutes
4 ribs of celery, cut into long strips
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
6 sprigs parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
⅔ cup vegetable oil
16 chicken legs, any mix of drumsticks and thighs
½ cup dry vermouth
2½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¾ cup all-purpose flour
Directions: 1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cover bottom of a 6-quart casserole with the celery and onions and add parsley and tarragon.
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Place flour in a shallow pan and lightly dredge chicken in it, shaking off any excess. Add chicken to the casserole, placing on top of the onions, celery, and herbs. Tuck garlic around the chicken. Pour vermouth (or white wine) on top of chicken.
Roast, uncovered, in oven for 30 minutes, then baste with pan juice. Continue roasting for another 25 to 30 minutes until chicken is crisp and meat is cooked through.