I’ll admit from the off that I was slightly scared. Not by the quantity of garlic you understand – it mellows considerably with roasting – but by the oil; 250ml of olive oil settled into a deep golden pool in the bottom of my battle-scarred roasting dish.
This dish comes from Provence, land of olive oil and garlic. A full forty cloves stew gently in the fruity elixir, and by the time the chicken is cooked, they are transformed to a soft savoury paste which can be squidged from its papery home and smeared onto the chicken, or good bread, or into mashed potato. A sprig or two of thyme and a couple of bay leaves add their own perfume and the whole heady medley gets right into that chicken – and your soft furnishings – beautifully. Febreeze, eat your heart out.
If you are thinking of making this dish – and I cannot encourage you enough to do so – then this article and this one, are definitely worth a read. There are a few controversial points to consider, such as whether to peel or not to peel when it comes to the garlic (don’t) and whether or not one should brown the chicken before roasting. I just turn the heat up at the end of cooking to crisp up the skin.
When it comes to resting, I recommend positioning her with her legs (mine spectacularly yellow, from corn feeding) sticking up in the air. This means that all the juices seep down towards the breast, leaving you with juicy meat. To serve, most recommend mashed potato but I just didn’t fancy it in the face of all that richness and made a salad of bitter curly endive dressed liberally with a lemony dressing. Juices were mopped with hunks of good bread.
The leftover oil has been a source of much excitement over the past couple of days. I can’t wait to tell you what I did with the leftovers. The carcass went into the stock pot too so that one decent chicken has been the base for three meals each for two people. It’s the gift that just keeps on giving.
Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic
1 chicken (mine was 1.5kg)
250ml olive oil
40 cloves of garlic or thereabouts (that’s four whole bulbs), papery bits removed but not peeled
A sprig of thyme (plus a bit extra for the cavity)
A sprig of rosemary (I didn’t use this, but it can’t be a bad thing)
2 bay leaves
Half a lemon
Salt and pepper and lots of it
Preheat the oven to 180C
Un-truss the chicken drizzle a little oil over the skin, rubbing it in. Surround it with the garlic cloves, herbs and bay, then stick the other herbs and lemon inside the cavity. Pour the oil around. Season the chicken very generously, then cover with foil and seal tightly.
Roast it for 1 hour then remove from the oven and turn the oven up to 220C. Carefully pour out the oil into a dish (along with the garlic) then set aside and return the chicken to the tray. Roast for a further 10 minutes then rest in a bowl with legs in the air for 15.
Use this time to make a sharply dressed salad and cut some fresh bread for spreading those garlic cloves onto. Enjoy!