The classic French chicken dish includes garlic – 40 cloves of it

It’s easy to see why a recipe that starts with 40 cloves of garlic might seem suspicious. Most recipes that include garlic call for somewhere between two and six cloves, so 40 would seem like an insane amount. Trust me, it’s not.

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic is actually a classic Provençal dish first made popular on our shores by famed food writer James Beard, who insisted that you count the cloves to make sure you use the right number.

Once you try it, you’ll immediately understand why Beard didn’t want anyone to skimp on the star ingredient.

Slow cooking the whole cloves, along with the chicken, takes all the bite out of them and makes them soft and sweet. They are ideal for spreading, like butter, on quality bread.

This recipe begins by boiling the garlic cloves briefly in water, which accomplishes two things: it helps peel the cloves easily and starts the cooking process for them.

Chicken thighs are seared skin side down in a hot pan – work in batches to allow enough room for the liquid to evaporate – allowing the skin to brown properly. They are then transferred to a plate and the peeled, cooked garlic cloves are thrown into the pan to brown.

Then add the white wine, chicken stock and cream and bring to a boil. The chicken is placed back in the pan, skin above the liquid line to preserve its crispness, along with fresh sprigs of thyme, and roasted in the oven until tender.

The taste and aroma of this dish will make you feel like you are dining in a cozy French bistro. I like to serve it with mashed potatoes and a simple salad or sautéed green beans and of course a glass of French wine.

Oh, and remember that bread you spread with the soft garlic cloves? You’ll also want to use it to soak up every drop of the flavorful sauce, so make sure you have plenty on hand.

Chicken legs with 40 cloves of garlic

Serves from 6 to 8.

Serve this iconic French dish with a high-quality baguette, as you’ll want the bread to be spread with the soft, sweet garlic cloves like butter before using it to mop up the rich sauce. By Meredith Deeds.

• 3 whole heads of garlic, about 40 cloves

• 8 (7 to 8 ounces) bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed

• 3/4 tsp. salt

• 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• 1 tbsp. olive oil

• 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour

• 1 c. dry white wine

• 3/4 c. low-sodium chicken broth

• 1/4 c. cooking cream

• 4 sprigs of fresh thyme

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Separate the garlic cloves and drop them into a pot of boiling water for 2 minutes (1 or 2 minutes more if the cloves are large). Drain the garlic, let cool for a few minutes and peel. Set aside.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper on both sides.

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, place the chicken in the pan, skin side down, and cook until browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate, skin side up. Repeat with remaining chicken. Do not clean the pan.

Add the garlic to the same pan with the drippings. Reduce heat to medium and cook 3 to 6 minutes, turning often, until evenly browned. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Whisk in the wine, stock and cream. Return to the boil and scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the thyme and chicken back to the pan, basting in the liquid, keeping the skin above the surface. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast, uncovered, until the chicken is tender and cooked through (an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thighs should register 185 degrees), about 30 to 35 minutes. Remove the thyme sprigs and discard.

Ladle sauce and garlic into serving bowls and top with chicken. Serve hot with French bread if desired.

Meredith Deeds is a cookbook and food writer from Edina. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Instagram at @meredithdeeds.

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