Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic is a classic old-school braised chicken dish that doesn't really pop up much anymore. Maybe it's passe', but it used to be cool. Back in the day, I made every variation possible using peeled garlic cloves, unpeeled garlic cloves, whole chickens, or cut-up chickens.
Although I crave the flavor of deep roasted garlic, I haven't fiddled with 40 clove chicken for quite some time because it takes effort and time. With cooler temperatures settling in, my hankering for it started to get the best of me and I wanted to find a less fussy approach.
Lazy chicken with 40 cloves of garlic.
Instead of peeling a ton of individual garlic cloves, I halved 4 whole heads of garlic. While 3 heads of garlic split beautifully, the fourth one splintered like the blue angry bird, shooting garlic shrapnel everywhere. With enough garlic flesh exposed, I knew the flying pieces would work perfectly.Win. Reload.
Using kitchen shears, I snipped the backbone from a very small chicken and tossed it into my freezer chicken-scrap bag for a future stock. After pressing down on the breasts to flatten them (spatchcocked), I carefully sliced through the breast bone, cutting the chicken in half. To insure even cooking, I cut slits through the skin and flesh before sliding the tips of the drumsticks into the slits to secure them. I seasoned the chicken with kosher salt and slid it into the refrigerator to air dry.
After a couple of hours, I pulled the tucked halves from the refrigerator to come to room temperature. I cranked a skillet over a medium high flame, melted 2 tablespoons of butter into a drizzle of olive oil, and seared the chicken on all sides (about 4 minutes per side) before removing it to a side plate. While the skillet was still hot, I sauteed thinly sliced leek ribbons along with the individual angry garlic cloves. As the garlic started to caramelize, I deglazed the pan with 1/2 cup brandy and 1 cup chicken stock.
When the brandied stock came to a boil, I reduced it to a simmer before nestling the chicken halves, split garlic heads, and halved heirloom garden tomatoes into the sauteed leeks and garlic bombs.
I scattered fresh tarragon over the chicken, covered the skillet with aluminum foil, and slid it into a 350 degree oven to bake/braise for an hour. During the last 15 minutes, I tossed fresh brussels sprouts with salt, pepper, and thinly lemons before roasting them alongside the chicken.
When the chicken bundles reached 160 degrees, I plucked them from their bed of melted vegetables, placed them onto a sheet pan, and returned them to the oven to brown. for an additional 10 minutes. After squishing the nutty soft garlic pulp from their slippery skins (reserving 2 halves), I used a fork to mash the roasted tomatoes, leeks, and garlic into a rustic loose puree, thinning it with a splash of chicken stock.
I plated the chicken and spooned the puree over the top. As the garlicky aromatic puree puddled around the moist browned meat, I tumbled the charred brussels sprouts to the side and nudged the reserved roasted garlic heads next to the chicken for squeezable toasted crostini toppers.
That was it. A one pot wonder.
Oh sure, it was a ridiculous amount of garlic, but the long braise turned it into sweet nutty garlic candy. When mashed into the brandied stock, melted leeks, and roasted tomatoes, the broken roasted garlic puree bathed the moist chicken with savory sweetness and slight soft acidity.