Fabulously French, easy to make, and the perfect main course for any winter evening is my version of Chicken with 40 (more or less) Cloves of Garlic. If you have a working fireplace and a cast-iron skillet, you can make this poetry-in-a-pan on the open hearth, as I do. Or, accomplish all at your stovetop. Either way, the process takes only 30 minutes from start to finish.
Ingredients for 4 servings:
2 or 3 heads of garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
8 skinless, boneless, chicken thighs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup dry Vermouth
Salt and Pepper
For fireplace cooking, use a well-seasoned, cast-iron skillet, preferably 12-inches in diamter, and with a tight-fitting, glass (Pyrex) lid; for stovetop preparation, use any large skillet with a lid
A small saucepan, for poaching the garlic
Poaching the Garlic
In the saucepan, poach the unpeeled garlic cloves in boiling water for exactly 10 minutes. As the garlic poaches, brown the chicken.
Browning the Chicken Thighs
Be sure the chicken is well-dried or it will not brown properly. Set the skillet over moderately high heat; add one tablespoon each of butter and oil. When it is very hot but not smoking, lay in the chicken pieces. (Do not crowd the pan: there should be a little air space between each piece for proper browning; do the chicken in 2 batches if necessary.) Turn the chicken every 20 seconds or so until a rich, brown color is achieved.
Finishing the Cooking
Drain garlic, and then pour the cloves over the chicken thighs. Add salt, pepper, and three or more stems of fresh thyme. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid, and let the chicken mixture simmer, over moderate heat, for 20 minutes or until juices run clear.
Making the Glaze
Remove chicken and garlic to a platter, and keep it warm. Pour vermouth into the hot skillet, and boil it down rapidly, all the while scraping up coagulated juices from the bottom of the pan. When the liquid is reduced to the syrupy stage, swirl in a tablespoon of butter, to smooth out and enrich the glaze. Toss in a tablespoon of butter, and swirl it around until melted. Pour the glaze over chicken, strew on addition sprigs of thyme, and serve immediately.
Eating the Garlic
To eat the unpeeled garlic, simply pinch, with the fingers, the pointed tip of a clove. Out will come the garlic in a smooth, flavorful paste. You can spread this creamy goodness on rounds of French bread, or, if you are carb-conscious, on the chicken pieces.
Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic is really easy to make in front of a fire (it is also tastier, because of the increased caramelization that is inevitable with fireplace cooking). On the hearth, arrange two bricks about 10 inches apart, and shovel red-hot embers between them. Then set the frying pan on top of the bricks. Proceed exactly as for stovetop cooking, adding or withdrawing embers to increase or decrease heat. If you have a flame-proof saucepot, you can poach the garlic at the hearth, too. Otherwise, do your poaching at the stovetop, and accomplish all else at the fireplace.