Perhaps an arbitrary number of cloves, the 40 in this French dish are iconic; while the chicken braises, the generous cloves become appealingly soft and spreadable. But their flavor is often spiritless.
Another offense: The chicken is tender, but the breast meat dries out and tastes wan. We wanted to revisit this classic dish to make it faster and better, so it would boast well-browned, full-flavored chicken, sweet and nutty garlic and a savory sauce.
Using chicken pieces rather than a whole bird ensured that the meat cooked evenly — and quickly. We roasted the garlic cloves first to caramelize them and develop their flavor and then added them to the braising liquid with the chicken.
Finishing the braised chicken under the broiler made the skin crispy. Some shallots and herbs added flavor to the sauce, and several roasted garlic cloves, smashed into a paste, thickened and flavored the sauce. If using a kosher chicken, skip the brining process. Avoid heads of garlic that have begun to sprout (the green shoots will make the sauce taste bitter).
Tie the rosemary and thyme sprigs together with kitchen twine so they will be easy to retrieve from the pan. Serve the dish with slices of crusty baguette; you can spread them with the roasted garlic cloves.
CHICKEN WITH 40 CLOVES OF GARLIC
Start to finish: 2 hours
3 large garlic heads, cloves separated and unpeeled
2 shallots, peeled and quartered lengthwise
5 teaspoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
4 pounds bone-in chicken pieces
(2 split breasts cut in half crosswise, 2 drumsticks, and 2 thighs)
3/4 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
3/4 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 2 pieces and chilled
Nutrition information per serving: 577 calories; 277 calories from fat; 31 g fat (8 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 173 mg cholesterol; 1033 mg sodium; 24 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 8 g sugar; 40 g protein.
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