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Chicken with 40 Garlic Cloves

A rustic dish this, with all the ingredients baked slowly together in a pot so flavors blend. Don't be nervous about the quantity of garlic - you'll be amazed how it mellows in the oven's heat. Willan avoids the work of peeling the cloves, leaving guests to squeeze out the soft pulp.

4-pound chicken
Salt and pepper
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tablespoons butter
3-4 heads garlic
2 cups chicken stock, more if needed

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Season the chicken inside and out with salt and pepper. Add 2-3 sprigs of thyme to the cavity and truss the bird. Separate the garlic heads into 40 or so cloves, leaving them unpeeled. Note that you'll need fewer cloves in the winter when garlic is drier and more pungent.

Heat the butter in a medium flameproof casserole with lid, add the chicken, and brown over medium heat 8-10 minutes, turning so it colors evenly on all sides. Add the garlic cloves and remaining thyme with enough stock to cover the garlic completely. Cover the pan and cook the chicken in the heated oven until it is very tender when the thigh is pierced with a two-prong fork, 50-60 minutes. The meat will start to shrink from the drumstick bones, and the garlic cloves will be very tender. Check from time to time during cooking, and if the pan seems dry, add more stock.

Transfer the chicken and half the garlic cloves to a serving dish, cover and keep warm. Work the remaining garlic with the cooking liquid through a strainer, pressing well to extract all the garlic pulp. Bring this sauce to a boil on top of the stove and, if necessary, simmer to reduce it until lightly thickened. Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning. Discard trussing strings from the chicken and serve the sauce in a separate bowl.

Serves 4.

Anne Willan, La Varenne at The Greenbrier

Sunday, May 09, 1999

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