chicken with forty cloves of garlic

There was a period a couple years ago when Alex was traveling a lot for work and I hated every single second of it, even–quite brattily–the parts where he got fancy rental cars and stayed in “Heavenly Beds” (which he still does not shut up about, even today) and got to eat awesome meals and expense them. What can I say? I haven’t lived by myself in a lot of years and all of those windows that flood our apartment with light during the day are scary as hell at night, especially you read stories about someone trying to break into a friend’s apartment through the skylight. I slept terribly.

One Friday night when he was supposed to get in by eight from LA, I decided to make a big, huge “welcome home!” meal with homemade challah and chicken dish I had always wanted to make because how could it not be the very best thing in the entire world? Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic. I can’t remember which recipe I used, however, but it was a big disappointment. The chicken had the quality I hate, dryness, and the garlic cloves that I had expected to be softly caramelized and oozy were bitter and greasy. Plus, the recipe had been an elaborate pain, fussy steps and in the end, completely not worth it. (Don’t worry, the girlfriends I had over and I got very drunk on red wine before Alex got home–typical–so it in no way ruined our evening.)

40-something cloves of garlic

If only I had had this recipe! I took one look at it in the New York Times yesterday, I and immediately had to make it. Plus, Alex isn’t traveling or even working at the same place anymore, so I had the advantage of coming home to him with one gigantic pile of garlic skins on one side of him and 42 peeled cloves on the other, and a plume of garlicky air everywhere else.

Me: Oooh! Thank you baby! But didn’t you see at Garden of Eden where they sell them already peeled?
Alex, a little horrified: They sell them already peeled?
Me: Yeah, right by the salads and chopped vegetables and [watching him eye all of his hard work] you know, let’s pretend this conversation never happened.

Anyway, this recipe–especially if you can locate some already-peeled garlic–is a cinch with a capital C. We ate it with couscous and steamed green beans, in possibly the most traditional dinner I have cooked in eons. It was a good night and, even better, I slept like a baby, with my baby.

chicken with forty cloves of garlicchicken with forty cloves of garlic

* So, I can’t do NaBloPoMo this year, despite the fact that it was so much fun last time. It’s just not going to happen, no way, uh-uh, can’t do it. No matter how sad it makes me, not even trying is less crushing to me than failure. Pathetic but true.

But I do have 30 recipes I was hoping to try to this month. Let’s just leave it at that.

One year ago: Not Your Mama’s Coleslaw

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic
Adapted from “Bistro Cooking” by Patricia Wells via NYTimes 10/31/07

Yield: 4 servings.

1 3- to 4-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces, at room temperature
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
About 40 large garlic cloves
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock or canned broth.

1. Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Place a deep, nonreactive skillet or Dutch oven over high heat, and add oil and butter. When fats are hot but not smoking, add chicken pieces skin side down and cook until skin turns an even, golden brown, about 5 minutes. Work in batches, if necessary, and carefully regulate heat to avoid scorching skin. Turn pieces and brown them on other side for an additional 5 minutes.

2. Reduce heat to medium. Bury garlic cloves under chicken to make sure they settle in one layer at bottom of skillet. Saute, shaking or stirring pan frequently, until garlic is lightly browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Add wine and stock, scraping bottom of pan.

3. Cover and continue cooking until juices run clear when a thigh is pricked, 10 to 15 minutes more. Serve chicken with garlic and pan juices and, if desired, rice or sauteed potatoes.

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71 comments on chicken with forty cloves of garlic

  1. Lisa

    You may have heard this or knew it already ( i didnt think it was that big of a deal myself till they did a thing on food tv about it recently, perhaps alton brown..? shrugs)

    garlic that has the lil thing-a-ma-do-hickey at the indicates its starting to sprout.. and that makes garlic taste bitter and icky… a few cloves wouldnt matter i dont think.. but obviously the more there is, it may become an issue at that point.

    ya know, just my 2 cents worth..

    Lisa / Cupcakes.

  2. Jessica

    Once, I let that thing-a-ma-do-hickey at the end of my garlic grow until I was sick of looking at it. The cloves got kind of soft, but it just kept growing.

    This looks excellent – I have never seen peeled garlic cloves in stores in my area, so I might have to try this sometime when I have nothing to do… Did you eat the garlic cloves? How were they?

  3. Melanie

    I made this dish recently, from a slightly different recipe (no butter, add rosemary, thyme, and 2 T. tomato paste to the liquid make a sauce, then bake in the oven) – the biggest difference is that my recipe called for unpeeled garlic. After it was done you could slide the paper right off the garlic and smoosh it onto crusty bread or into the mashed potatoes I made to go with it. Very good, and a slight variation on yours.

  4. catherino

    I’ve made a variation of this several times, except my recipe calls for a drizzle of maple syrup (of all things) on the chicken as it bakes, so that it’s this incredible combo of sweet and savory. Haven’t thought about it in a while though – thanks for reminding me!

  5. if i make another of your suggested amazing recipes, people are gonna either think i worship you or i am the most unoriginal food blogger of all time… this looks wonderful and sounds so easy…

  6. My father cut the recipe out of the times yesterday and he made it for us for dinner tonight. It was good, though I was surprised at how mild the garlic flavor was, considering the amount of garlic in the recipe.

  7. My grandmother used to make this dish for us back in the day and I agree with Elise in #14 – it’s not even that garlicky considering the obscene amounts of garlic involved! And re: the already-peeled garlic, I am a HUGE fan. We get it at our local Asian market (where we buy all of our produce, actually – its better and waaay cheaper) and use it in…well, everything. Great post as usual, Deb!

  8. RA

    I scrolled down quickly to see the source of this recipe and – surprise! Not Ina! I know she has something like this and I was kind of missing her around these parts. When this much garlic is at stake, it doesn’t matter.

    In regard to peeling a lot of cloves, I saw a random episode of the Food Network star show when the blonde girl (Cosette? Colette?) needed to peel lots of garlic and started to do it by hand. But then the Dinner Impossible guy came around, put all the garlic in two steel bowls (like a shaker) and shook all the peel off. Despite the glaring lack of details, can anyone speak to whether this actually works?

  9. joanne

    Hee hee, I like to buy my garlic at the Asian markets too. I have also bought them at Safeway, Lucky’s, Walmart, and Publix. The Kroger I go to doesn’t have whole peeled garlic in jars. Go figure. This recipe looks so good. I have an issue with garlic though. I adore it. I will slow simmer cloves in olive oil and have that with baguettes. My problem is that I end up exuding the scent of garlic for 3 days! I only ate 5 cloves! They were simmered or even baked for an hour. Does anyone else have this problem?

  10. Yup, that was going to be a weekend dish for us – looks great though – I do find peeling garlic somewhat therapeutic- I know i’m weird like that. But it makes me feel all rustic! Of course, the time convenience of peeled garlic is priceless.

  11. deb

    Andy — That was 1 3/4, as in, almost two. I mistyped. But, as Melanie suggests, it could be more so better safe than sorry.

    Elise — I agree. The garlic isn’t nearly as pungent or even dark and caramelized as one would expect from the quantity. My theory is that all of the chicken fat that cooks off muffles it. However, the stock I have separated off from the drippings–shezzow!

    RA — I could see that. If garlic is super-fresh, as in totally firm with no dents, I find the peels really easy to get off. The slightest tap or abrasion cracks the skin. But he still sounds like a show-off. ;)

  12. I’ve made this before and while I agree that it’s good, I like my garlic more pungent and spicy. I may try it again with some suggestions from previous posters.

    RA – I watched someone do the same garlic peeling method on Iron Chef. I think Robert Irvine is a bit pompous and show-offy but I respect the sous chef on IC that did it, so I conclude it is a valid method.

  13. Oh my god, that is pretty much my dream meal. Because there is almost nothing better than garlic, and combined with juicy chicken and some couscous and green beans? Love it. I would be making this immediately if a) I wasn’t at work and b) last time I made chicken in a skillet I managed to burn large portions of my arm with hot oil and am still healing two weeks later.

  14. I am looking forward to those 30 recipes! I was so hoping you would do NaBloPoMo again this year. It was fun, last year – come one, you can do it! I was thinking of doing 30 cakes in 30 days – don’t think I can make that commitment – but I can fill in with something.

  15. I sometimes make the version that Adam (The Amateur Gourmet) posted a couple of years ago, which is Ina Garten’s, I think from Barefoot in Paris. It’s a bit more involved and fancied up, with cognac and thyme and some cream at the end, I think. But very, very delicious. I’ve also seen numerous other versions, some of which are basically just baked/roasted chicken, either whole or cut up, with 40 cloves of garlic still in the papery skin. So some of these recipes are braised, some are potted, some are pan-roasted, and some are roasted.

    I just find it fascinating that a dish which is considered part of the “classical French repertoire” has so many very, very different interpretations. Gives us a lot to tackle, I guess, since we’re all such idle slackers…

  16. Kristen

    Looks fabulous! I like the use of 8 pieces of chicken, instead of a whole roaster. Barefoot Contessa made this recipe a few seasons ago, and used a whole chicken. I think I prefer this method and will give it a try this weekend as well!

  17. Ina Garten has a great recipe for Chicken with 40 Cloves in her Barefoot in Paris book. It’s rich, of course, like all Ina recipes, but it’s absolutely fool-proof and oh so good.

  18. My husband travels for work too, and I have skylights in my home, so I’m not reading your friend’s scary story. The chicken looks very, very good though.

  19. deb

    I should clarify that the store we go to preps it themselves. I definitely wouldn’t considered the jarred stuff a good replacement for fresh. Mark Bittman gives good shopping suggestions here.

  20. smithers

    Bitterness from the “thing-a-ma-do-hickey” (sprout) at the growing end? Yes, but it’s sooooo easy to either smash the clove with the flat of a chef’s knife and pull the sprout out, or cut the clove in two with a paring knife and perform the same simple surgery. This really doesn’t add a material amount of time to the recipe. And the recipe is even better with 50 cloves of garlic!

  21. Christina

    I saw this recipe in the Times and recognized it as a riff on the classic Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic Recipe. Having just bought a le Cruset enameled knockoff (yay Martha Stewart), I googled the original recipe. Then, of course, altered it to my heart’s content to ensure it was crisp, juicy and flavorful. It made an excellent, hearty fall supper.

    -3-4 chicken leg quarters (leg and thigh), skin on
    -3 stalks celery, sliced on the diagonal
    -1 large carrot, unpeeled, sliced on the diagonal
    -2 med. white potatoes, cubed (unpeeled)
    -1/2 med. onion, chopped
    -2 bay leaves
    -a generous sprinkling of poultry seasoning
    -salt and pepper for sprinkling
    -2 Tbsp. butter
    -1/4 c. flour for dusting
    -40 cloves of garlic, peeled (buy pre-peeled from the Latin market–you are out of your mind or a masochist otherwise)
    -2 tsp. olive oil
    -1 c. chicken broth
    -3/4 c. white wine (Sauvignon Blanc works well)

    1. Preheat the over to 350. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper, poultry seasoning, and dust with flour. Brown in butter, starting skin-side down, then turning, for about 12 min. until golden.

    2. Remove the chicken to a plate. Add the sliced carrot, celery, onion, and potato, and bay leaf to the casserole and cook until slightly softened.

    3. In a small separate baking dish, toss the garlic in the olive oil and pop into the oven to roast. Stir occasionally and keep an eye on it.

    4. Deglaze the casserole with the wine and broth. Return the chicken to the pan, skin side up. Drizzle a little more white wine over top. Bring to a boil.

    5. Transfer the casserole to the oven. Do not cover (or you’ll end up with steamed chicken with soggy, flabby skin and watery pan juices). Bake 30-40 min. or until chicken is tender.

    6. In the meantime, once the garlic turns golden and soft, add it to the casserole with the chicken. (I found that it was better to roast the garlic separately because otherwise it just seems to boil in the broth, never getting that nice golden color and mellow sweetness).

    When everything is tender and the pan juices have cooked down, serve with crusty bread.

  22. Abigail

    This looks absolutely delicious. I recently cooked two of the chicken dishes on this blog. Both the coq au vin and the arroz con pollo worked out very well and this one promises to be just as good.

    I’d like to recommend Jamie Oliver’s Ligurian Chicken ( After all the labor required for the other two dishes, my husband still swears by this super easy no-prep one-pot dish.

  23. babibi

    Since everyone else is adding their variations, here’s an easy one of mine. If you halve a couple of lemons in there to bake with the garlic and chicken, they come out browned and their juice mixes in… really divine.

  24. Sally

    OK – this is LATE and totally cheating, but I just made an easy variation tonight that was absolutely wonderful and had to share. I got a rotisserie chicken from Sam’s (gasp!) cut it up into pieces and dumped it and all the juice in a roasting dish, added 40 cloves, about 30 cippoline (sp?) onions, fresh thyme sprigs, black pepper and about 1/8 C olive oil. Cooked it in the oven at 350 for an hour and a half. I cooked some gnocci and dumped them in the pan and tossed in the juices after the baking was finished. I also added about 2 T pine nuts and more black pepper to finish. The gnocci added a wonderful texture and the juices infused it nicely. THANK YOU for the inspiration.

  25. I’m a little late in joining this discussion, but the Dinner: Impossible way of peeling garlic does work. Just shake hard and the peels just remove themselves (and it’s kinda fun). It would probably work in an actual martini shaker as well, but then you run the risk of having all future martinis taste a bit like garlic.

  26. Adam

    For the best pre-peeled garlic on the planet, see I buy the 2 gallon food service container of peeled garlic cloves about once a month, but we go through lots of garlic in my house. Click on “products” to see a list of stores that carry Christopher Ranch garlic. If your local store doesn’t carry this stuff, get on your produce manager to test it out. It really is the best.

  27. Gwen

    I’ve done a variation of this recipe for Thanksgiving, but with a small (9-12 lb) turkey and about 3 heads (60-70) cloves of garlic. I cut up (yes I said CUT UP) the turkey like a fryer chicken and brown it in a VERY LARGE dutch oven, salt and pepper it, add the garlic, some fresh rosemary and thyme, about 2 cups of good white wine, and 2 cups of water, then seal it up tight with foil and the dutch oven lid. Then into a 350-degree oven it goes for a good 3 – 3 1/2 hours. I make pan stuffing and other side dishes to go with it.

    I’ve made this two years now, and I’ve been told by multiple people that it’s the best turkey they’ve ever eaten. Juicy, flavorful, and succulent. The garlic is that squish-on-toast consistency, and I strain the drippings and make the BEST gravy. You don’t even have to CARVE this bird. You can serve it with a fork and a pair of tongs.

  28. Julie

    Just made this- It was good. I added a little bit of milk and flour at the end to make a thicker sauce out of the juices. My bf and I decided the garlic was too much to eat the cloves, but they would be great mashed and thrown into some mashed potatoes or maybe spread on some bread. I think I would add something like rosemary or italian seasonings next time. And maybe add some sliced onions in with the garlic to start? It was good, but (IMHO) it could use a little more flavor.
    : ) Thanks for the recipe!

  29. Catharine

    I bought a “grill pack” at Whole Foods the other day and included was 8 chicken drumsticks. Would using these instead of a whole cut-up chicken work, and would I need to adjust the cooking time?

  30. Sarah

    For those people wondering about the best way to rapidly peel 40 cloves of garlic… someone alluded to this earlier… if you put the cloves in a pot (of any sort, mine’s a crappy old Goodwill saucepan), hold the lid down, and shake it for a while, off they come. It works with any kind of garlic — fresh, not, bruised, not — and takes about 5 minutes from head to peeled clove (if you’re an aggressive shaker). Done and done.

  31. Katherine

    This looks delicious. Great website btw! So, I’m not very good at applying logic to cooking, so this may be a super pathetic question, but can I cook this with just boneless, skinless chicken breasts? It’s all I’ve got in the fridge right now :/ Well, that and some garlic. And wine, of course.

  32. Adrian Levine

    I made this recipe and it was excellent…even my fast-food-loving-teens said it was delicious. Will definitely make it again!

  33. Jendorf

    This was amazing!! I’ve read about this recipe a million times, but never actually made it. I had 3 heads of garlic that I had to finally use up from my winter share of my CSA, so I searched for this recipe and was so glad to see that it wasn’t to fussy (other than peeling the garlic, which I found kinda zen!) Every person in my family told me “this is the best meal ever!” including my newly somewhat picky son =). Thanks!

  34. Hi there! I made this recipe. We definitely enjoyed it.

    Funny story though. I got a whole chicken and attempted to cut it into 8 pieces, but I could not, for the life of me, break it apart… you should have seen the sloppy mess on my kitchen counter. How on earth do you break through those bones?

    Luckily, I had split chicken breast on hand. But I feel guilty for putting that bird, though dead, through such misery! Ha, ha!

  35. Sharm

    My sister recommended me your site which I find totally cute.
    Made this last night. It was WONDERFULL.
    Family devoured it. It was the quietest dinner ever.
    I Got nothing but complements on it.

  36. Mandy

    Just made this two night’s ago. It was delicious, soft and flavourful and juicy. The taste was not as intense/overpowering as I thought it might be with all that garlic.

    Amazing recipe. Definitely bookmarking it.

  37. judy

    Thanks for the inspiration! I used boneless chicken thighs, browned and took out, browned up the garlic and then added the chicken back to finish cooking with sauce. Smells delicious! Can’t wait to dig in!
    As for the garlic, I would not buy them from Asian stores especially if they are imported from China (very likely). Not worth the discount imho.

  38. Deborah Robinson

    This recipe is wonder-balls! Scaled down, cooked 4 thighs of chicken , 20 cloves of garlic, cous-cous and green beans! Again please!

  39. I made this for our cooking club and it was a total hit. The Saveur trick with the two bowls worked perfectly (I used one bowl, one pie tin that fit on top and a well-muscled husband). I didn’t have white wine so I used lemon juice but it was delicious!!!

  40. Irene

    This recipe looks very intriguing. So, I usually peel my garlic by first smacking it with the flat side of a knife. The skin peels off super easily after that. But each clove is not a bit squashed. Do the cloves have to stay intact for this recipe to be tasty? I would imagine the squashed cloves will help release the flavor. Thoughts?

  41. Lisa

    I haven’t seen anyone give this hint, but a lot of garlic cloves can be peeled very easily by dumping the lot into rapidly boiling water for a minute or two. Drain them, let them cool, then holding them between thumb and two fingers, slightly squeeze one end and they just pop out.

  42. Emma Tucker

    Found your blog last night while watching Ratatouille and looking for recipe of the same name:) Found one here and so many more. Am trying the 40 garlic clove chicken tonight and I look forward to it turning out as well as you describe! Lots of great recipes on here – thanks so much for sharing them with the world.

  43. Philip R.

    Came across the William Sonoma version of this recipe about a month ago while trying to decide on a dish to cook for some friends. It was incredible! We had about a pint of the sauce left over after dinner. Next morning I took one look at it, toasted some sourdough then slathered it with the garlic sauce which had congealed overnight. Pure, delicious heaven. Later on I did a riff on this all in a dutch oven on a camp stove. Who says you can’t have great food while camping?

    Thanks Deb!

  44. Judy

    I can get peeled garlic in a jar in some sort of liquid. Is that what you are talking about? In my plain ordinary lousy supermarket.

  45. Cheryl

    I just made this recipe over the weekend. Not only was it easy, but it was absolutely delicious and the recipe directions were spot on. That’s basically par for the course on this site though. Everything I’ve ever tried has always been at worst good, if not great.

  46. Cindy B.

    This is my go-to recipe for every Jewish holiday. It is easy, I make it in advance, and it reheats perfectly in the oven without drying out. A family member has celiac, so I simply make sure I guy gluten free chicken stock (or use my own homemade stock for Passover). Thanks for another winner (winner chicken dinner!!).

    1. Cindy B.

      I also make it ahead of time and then reheat it in the oven so it tastes even better the next day or two days Ayer. I use all olive oil instead of butter so it’s a little less heavy and still completely fantastic. In fact, I’m making this today for Rosh Hashanah on Monday. Still a great recipe.

  47. Kate

    Dynamite! Easy, with all the things I love (garlic, butter, olive oil..). I let the chicken simmer a bit longer with the lid on for a nice “glaze”. Made with roasted broccoli. Love Smitten Kitchen!