I first ate this dish in one of our frequent summer breaks to the Provence (South-East France). My family loves garlic, hence, a dish called “poulet à l’ail” (garlic chicken) on the menu card would not shrug us off in any way, however, we learnt that it was not just another garlic chicken dish. We were stunned when the waiter told us “Beaucoup d’ail sont allés dans ce plat de poulet” or lots of garlic went into this chicken (dish). Then I recalled of the renowned recipe called “Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic“. The waiter just winked back at me.
Damn, it was brilliant! And I am not kidding.
Reliving Provence in Belgium ?
I tried to find the origin of the dish. It’s rather obscure, if you ask me. I double checked with a French colleague who hailed from Marseille and he confirmed the method of cooking the chicken is very Provençal, id est with the fresh herbs, generous amount of garlic, cooking wine and the slow oven-roasting technique by using the extra-heavy cast iron casserole dish or “French oven” or “Dutch oven”.
On the other hand, this same dish is ubiquitous to the French-speaking Canadian of Québec while the Americans know this garlicky chicken dish from The Stinking Rose restaurant in San Francisco. The resto has a catchy motto which goes like this, “We Season Our Garlic With Food“. Cool!
Wherever the origin of the dish may have come from, I have a gut feeling that it’s a Medieval dish. Just visualise the poultry cooked in lots and lots of garlic and herbs in a heavy cast iron cauldron suspended above hot charcoals or open fire. Erm… to shoo away the vampires, perhaps? Ha ha …
40 cloves of garlic sounds dangerously lethal, but trust me the slow-cooking mellows the pungent smell of the once raw garlic taste into something very sweet, creamy and buttery-mild paste. This is a very rustic dish, a comfort dish that can be consumed all-year round with the family sitting together at the dining table.
And here’s my creation of THE One Chicken and 40 Cloves of Garlic!
There are several ways of preparing this dish. I’ve experimented and fiddled my way through the many occasions I have cooked this “garlicky” chicken and I found the one I made with the herb-spice-butter mix rub the best. There’s no need to brown or sear the meat prior to baking it. The chicken will brown nicely once placed in a pre-heated oven at 230 – 250 deg Celsius for the first 30 minutes or so, uncovered and then slow-roasting the chicken for another hour at 160 deg Celsius, covered. Then again the temperature of the oven depends on the type of oven you own.
By the way, the authentic way of cooking this dish is using an earthenware pot, with its lid sealed with a a paste made of flour and water to retain the moisture. The chicken becomes juicy and beautifully tender during the slow cooking in the oven. I don’t have an earthenware dish, but an enameled cast iron casserole dish (similar to Le Creuset but of a humbler brand)
The original recipe was based on a French cookbook which was at my disposal (for reading and trying out the Provençal cuisine) during one of our summer trips to the Provence. The cookbook was tucked neatly on the kitchen shelf in our rented cottage. By the way, all the recipes were in French. I could not recall the title of the cookbook because I was trying to memorise the ingredients of the “poulet aux 40 gousses d’ail”.
Fortunately, the ingredients used were simple to find and the cooking method was quite straightforward.
- 1 whole chicken ( I used Val Dieu chicken, 1.7 kg)
- A bunch of fresh rosemary (yes FRESH, please!)
- A bunch of fresh thyme (there you go, FRESH again! )
- 3 whole knobs of garlic (circa 40 cloves)
- 1 drinking glass White wine plus 2 Tbsp (I used blends of Semillon and Chardonnay. Note: this is optional. You may use chicken broth or just water)
Herb-Spice-Butter Mix (own method)
- 40g cold butter
- Fleur de sel (I strongly recommend to use this salt instead of the common table salt. I bought this moist hand-harvested sea salt in Camargue Note: Fleur de sel or Flower of salt has more mineral complexity than common table salt. Another alternative is coarse sea salt )
- Black peppercorns
- Dried Persillade (which I bought at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence)
- Pre-heat the oven
- Use a pestle and mortar to grind the black peppercorns, fleur de sel and Persillade before mixing them in the butter to form a herb-spice- butter mix
- Rub the herb-spice-butter mix all over the chicken and inside the cavity.
- Tuck in a third each of the fresh herbs and about 10 cloves of garlic inside the cavity of the chicken.
- Prepare a bed of herbs with the remaining Rosemary and Thyme and some cloves of garlic in an ovenproof dish and rest the herb-spice-butter rubbed chicken on this glorious bed.
- Use the rest of the garlic cloves and sprinkle them nonchalantly around the chicken
- Add 2 Tbsp white wine in the casserole dish
- Roast with the lid open between 20 – 30 minutes
- Lower the oven temperature and add the glass of white wine. Close the lid of the casserole dish and continue slow-roasting the chicken for 1 hour.
- Remove the chicken to a clean serving plate and keep it warm.
- What’s left in the casserole dish makes a deliciously sweet and fragrant sauce. For this, use your imagination 😉
And that’s it!
This was probably one of the tastiest chicken dishes I have made and not only that, it was so simple to cook.
Because I have used Rosemary, Thyme and Persillade, I’m linking this post to Lavender and Lovage’s Cooking with Herbs April Linky
This post is also linked to Tasty Tuesdays @ HonestMum
Have a wonderful weekend!