Lion Taming and Other Illusions

Chicken with 40 (or More) Cloves of Garlic 
Forget everything I said about The Beast. When I first moved in to the our "city house" last spring, I was sure that I'd forever detest the massive hunk of steel in my kitchen. While many of you were thrilled at the prospect of using a commercial Wolf range as your primary cooking heat source, I had done it before professionally and didn't find it all that terrific. The oven ran hot and cold, shall we say, and as the restaurant's baker, it was also my job to clean the monster every week, which was no small task. I'm a function-leads-form person, thrilled with the innovations of variable BTUs, sealed gas burners and self-cleaning ovens. A home cook needs to make a delicate sauce every now and then without burning it, and doesn't want to spend her life cleaning the stove, right??
Well, here's the deal. I have grown to love the She-Beastie. Just like the lion-tamer believes that she is the one to revise the characteristics of the lion, I had assumed that I would take charge of this enormous beast and impose my own set of rules upon her. And, just like the lion-tamer, I ended up standing back and letting her teach me a thing or two. It's simply an illusion that it is me who is in charge.

No, I' won't be cooking a hollandaise anytime soon, at least not without a stack of three flame-tamers underneath the saucepan. How often do I do that, in reality, anyway? What I do cook is a lot of one-pot stews, soups and tagines, which are so easy to do on this rather large and roaring piece of equipment. Like this perfect pot of 40-garlic chicken.

40-clove garlic chicken was the restaurant rage in the '80's, but I'd never prepared it at home. The recipe comes from my favorite issue of my new favorite food mag, Saveur. The October 2012 issue featuring 100 classics is a treasure. I was pretty thrilled that the recipe called for 40 cloves, or up to 100 cloves of garlic. I had a rather large bag of peeled garlic from Costco, an impulse purchase, langoring in the fridge that could use a purpose, so in went 80 or so cloves. (I stopped counting at 60, but know I didn't quite make it to 100.) This definitely falls into the "garlic as a vegetable" category rather than garlic as a seasoning.

We all know that garlic cooked low-and-slow tames to a very mellow, smooth flavor rather than it's biting, ferocious raw counterpart. This recipe exemplifies that mellow quality, with the garlic melting into a fantastic rich brown pan sauce. This amount of garlic also makes the sauce a little thicker than it looks in the photo in Saveur.

My adaptions to the recipe were these:

  • Instead of piling the ingredients into a baking dish to finish in the oven, place them back into the large, deep-sided skillet that I had used to brown the chicken, lidding it, and finished it on the stovetop. One less pan to wash, and incredible results.
  • After reserving a generous amount of garlic to be left whole, I smoothed the sauce with my immersion blender and used perhaps twice as much stock as called for to thin it, adding back the whole cloves after blending. 
  • I had thyme and rosemary instead of tarragon, which were wonderful added to the sauce. 

Make enough of this for left overs, as it tastes even better the next day.

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic
Saveur Magazine, October 2012


3 tbsp. olive oil
1 (3 to 4-lb.) chicken, cut into 8 pieces
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
40 cloves garlic, peeled (you can use up to 100 cloves)
½ cup dry vermouth
¾ cup chicken stock
1 tbsp. chopped tarragon

Heat oven to 350°. Heat oil in a 6-qt. Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper; add to pot and cook, turning once, until browned, about 15 minutes. Transfer to an 8″ x 8″ baking dish; set aside. Add garlic to pot; cook until browned in spots, about 6 minutes. Add vermouth; cook, scraping bottom of pot, until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Add stock; boil. Transfer ¼ of the garlic to baking dish; mash remaining into stock. Pour over chicken; bake until chicken is glazed and tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Garnish with tarragon.


  1. This dish has been on my To Do list for a long time. Thank you for the prompt. Love the addition of vermouth. Good luck with the beast. It sounds like an added layer of adventure in your kitchen.


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