Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

IMG_2552wbMY VERSION OF CHICKEN WITH 40 CLOVES OF GARLIC is super-easy to make, but it is also chi-chi enough for a formal dinner party. The garlic, which mercifully doesn’t require peeling, becomes soft and sweet as it cooks. It’s fun to pop a clove out of its skin and then spread it on a piece of chicken, as above, or on a slice of homemade baguette. Here’s the recipe for this fragrant French fare that cooks up in only 30 minutes:

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic
Ingredients for 4 servings (can be doubled)
8 Skinless, boneless chicken thighs
4 heads of garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Seasonings: salt, freshly-ground black pepper, ground thyme
1/4 cup dry white French Vermouth
2 cups water

1. Separate the garlic cloves from their heads. I find that 4 heads equals roughly 40 cloves. I use only the cloves which are medium to large — the teensy ones located next to the stem are worthless for cooking.

Drop the unpeeled cloves into a medium sauce pan, add 2 cups of water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Then reduce the heat, cover the pot, and let the garlic simmer for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the chicken. I use boneless, skinless chicken thighs because they are loaded with flavor, they cook in 30 minutes, and they are easy for polite company to eat. In my opinion, bone-in chicken does not belong at a dinner party.
IMG_5221In a 12-inch skillet set over a medium flame, pour in a glug of olive oil along with a tablespoon of butter. When the butter melts and stops foaming, sprinkle into the skillet a big pinch of salt, a big pinch of ground thyme, and 5 grinds of black pepper. Then lay the thighs in the pan, and season the top of each one with a little more salt, pepper and thyme. When brown (after about 2 minutes), flip the chicken over, and brown the other side.
IMG_52293. Using a slotted spoon or spatula, transfer the blanched garlic cloves to the skillet. Arrange the cloves on top of, and in between, the chicken pieces.

Cover the pot, and let the chicken and garlic simmer on a low flame until the chicken is cooked through, and the garlic is soft when pinched with the fingers — about 20 minutes.

Transfer the chicken and garlic to a serving platter.
IMG_52404. Now, deglaze the skillet. Pour off all but a tablespoon of fat from the skillet, then add a 1/4 cup of dry white French vermouth. Bring to a boil over high heat, and let boil for about 2 minutes, while you scrape up, with your spatula, all the delicious bits of stuck-on chicken. Then toss in a tablespoon of butter, and swirl it around until it melts. Pour this fragrant elixir over the chicken and garlic.
IMG_5248Voila! You now have Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic — a French peasant dish which, by today’s standards, is chi-chi indeed.  Bring this poetry to the table.

To eat the garlic, simply pinch, with your fingers, the “tail” end of a clove. The garlic will pop right out of its skin. Spread this goodness on a slice of homemade baguette, or, if you are avoiding carbs…
IMG_5261…simply spread the garlic on a piece of chicken.

IMG_2552wbHere’s a cut-and-paste version of the recipe:

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic
from Kevin Lee Jacobs, A Garden for the House (dot) com
Ingredients for 4 servings (can be doubled)
8 Skinless, boneless chicken thighs
4 heads of garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
Fresh thyme
Seasonings: salt, freshly-ground black pepper, ground thyme
1/4 cup dry French Vermouth
2 cups water

Place garlic cloves and 2 cups water in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, pour a glug of olive oil into a 12-inch skillet set over high heat. Add 1 Tbsp butter, and sprinkle the skillet with a big pinch of salt, a big pinch of thyme, and 5 grinds of black pepper. When the butter has melted, lay in the chicken pieces. Sprinkle tops with a little more salt, thyme, and pepper. Let the chicken brown for 2 minutes on one side, then flip over and brown the other side. Using a slotted spoon, transfer garlic to the skillet, placing the cloves on top and in between the chicken pieces. Cover the skillet, turn the heat to “low”, and let simmer for 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through, and the garlic is soft and spreadable.

Are you a garlic lover, too? You can let me know by leaving a comment.

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  1. Bette K says:

    I cna so easily see this becoming my daughter’s favorite meal. It has all her favorite foods, chicken, garlic, and bread.

  2. Bette – It seems your daughter and I have much in common!

  3. Wow, I can smell that!!! I am definitely going to have to make this. I periodically make your cassoulet – with the beans, garlic, chicken, sausage, Although I tried a “cheap” version the other day with just beans and garlic cooked in chicken broth…it was not the same! It definitely needed the sausage or bacon.

  4. Terry – The Chicken with 40 (more or less!) Cloves of Garlic does smell divine! As for the cassoulet…just remembering the garlic and toasted breadcrumb topping makes me weep. But you are right — cassoulet needs meat, and the fattier, the better!

  5. Donna B. says:

    I’m salivating. Garrrrliiiiccc… ♥
    Seriously, this looks scrumtious! Most versions of this dish are whole-chicken and require some sort of roasting period… One would never think to just boil the garlic! I would even argue that it’s… “healthier”. hee hee!
    [Odd question: would roses maybe like the garlic water after it’s cooled? I know the benefits of ‘planting-garlic-near-roses-because-it-repels-aphid’s’ policy… but I wonder if reusing this water would work in a similar fashion?]

  6. Donna B. – My version of this dish is easy indeed. You have to try it!

    As for the garlic water, it certainly wouldn’t hurt your roses. But I think it would evaporate too rapidly to have any effect on pests if poured onto the soil. It might, however, deter aphids if you spray it on the plants. Of course you’d need lots of garlic water, which you can accumulate if you make this dish frequently!

  7. Heather Schlerf says:

    Wow- I can not wait to try this !!! I am a garlic lover. When I go to an Italian restaurant I am always asking for EXXXXXTRA garlic. Yum !!

  8. YES!

  9. secondhandlibrarian says:

    I posted this on Pinterest! I can’t wait to try i! Tired of cooking after 37 years and looking for good yet simple recipes! Hurrah you did it! Thanks!

  10. Those goofy little undersized garlic cloves are good to put in a clump of crocuses to keep rabbits from devouring foliage and buds/flowers. Peel them first, smash them, plop them into the bushy bulb foliage. Voila! Rabbits are deterred. (May need replacing after a hard rain…)

    Small pieces of fresh cut onion are also effective.

  11. Heather – We think alike, you and me. Extra garlic — bring it on!

    ArtistryFarm – A hippety, hoppety, Easter to you, too!

    secondhandlibrarian – So glad you liked this recipe enough to pin it. Thanks!

    Beverly – Great tips there. My ‘Van der Neer’ tulips were recently snipped by rabbits or chipmunks, so I know where my little smashed cloves will go!

  12. Gotta say. I made this chicken already twice. I found that I didn’t have thyme, so I used what I had–Fennel Seed. The results were amazing… Gonna try Thyme next “thyme”… THANKS, Kevin!

  13. Sounds heavenly !!! My hubby will luv cooking this … 🙂

  14. What could be substituted for the dry French Vermouth?

  15. Garlic is such a favorite of mine that I even buy pickled garlic.
    So this is one more recipe that I can use garlic in.


  16. Hi Jan – I always use dry vermouth for the deglazing sauce. But in a pinch, you could use white wine — especially Sauvignon blanc or Pinot Grigio.

  17. This sounds so good and I have just the right garlic to try it with. Music is a garlic that has this wonderful buttery taste right out the bulb and compliments chicken like no other. Even raw it doesn’t have the fire/heat as many garlic’s do. I keep a bulb right at my computer and eat it right there, Italians should love me 🙂

    Check the local farmers markets for different selections of garlic’s, you will be amazed at the different flavors they offer.

  18. Can’t wait to try this. When I had Snowvillage Inn in Snowville New Hampshire, we cooked only one meal each night at first. 1978. I liked to use my own cookbooks like Silver Palate and Moosewood Cookery for soups. I did try the 40 cloves of garlic chicken, but my guests were a little overwhelmed. Just like they were when I cooked a dish with lots of cilantro. I had not ever had training, it was all trial and error, but we had a great reputation for our food.
    It has been a while now, we sold in late 1986 and the inn just reopened with a former innkeeper coming back. I am so glad, it is the most beautiful place to go for peace and quiet and wonderful food. And now there are choices on the menu. But it was fun for us when we had it. Inns were just coming into fashion.

  19. Oh yum! I am going to definitely make this!

  20. I HAVE to laugh when I see the recipe for Chicken with 40 cloves of Garlic.
    Back in the eighties I owned and operated Snowvillage Inn, in Snowville, New Hampshire.
    The last year we owned it in 1986, I ended up being the cook, or chef, or what ever. I loved trying new menus. We actually usually only served one meal, and if a guest needed something different they could ask. Anyway I served this recipe. Well, some of the guests were quite overwhelmed. Just as the time I served a very heavily cilantro filled dish. Because they only had one choice they tried to eat it, but I should have realized everyone didn’t have my taste. Actually we did have a great menu and most of the time my experiments, from Silver Palate. Moosewood Cookery soups and things like that went over as a real hit. I did a lot of praying that things would work. I never had any training really. Just prayers and hope. 😉

  21. Jan Kirkham says:

    I love this dish and have made it in a slow cooker, but was never entirely satisfied. I like this recipe and will make it soon! As for the garlic water, I am going to save it for making vegetable or chicken broth.

  22. Hello Kevin, Made this tonight for My GF and brother’s family. I wasn’t sure going in but it was awesome!! Thanks for the recipe I’ll surely try more!!!!!!! It was better than I could have ever hoped and super simple to make. 😛

  23. Rocky Crutchfield says:

    This is a wonderful and quick recipe. There was no Vermouth available in my small town, so I substitued cooking Sherry. I thought it tasted great. Also, the printed version left out the deglazing step which I was able to get from the website. Just thought you should know.
    Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic will be a mainstay in my cookbook! Thanks for sharing it.

  24. Janice maclean says:

    This recipe has become a staple in our home. Just love it ❤️


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