The recipe for Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic stopped us dead in our tracks. Before stepping into the kitchen, we read it again and wondered if it could have been a mistake. We’ve used four cloves for a gutsy pasta sauce and a couple of big cloves slivered and tucked into a leg of lamb, but 40 cloves seemed like overkill.
Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic is a classic French dish, like coq au vin and chicken chasseur. It comes from the Provence region of the country, which makes perfect sense, because that’s where most garlic is grown.
Then we took a closer look at the instructions. While 40 cloves of raw garlic might be a terrible shock to a person’s taste buds, two hours in the oven softens the blow. Also garlic’s taste depends on how it’s prepared, not necessarily on how much is used. For instance, the finer garlic is chopped, the stronger the flavor. Crushed garlic is strongest, and cooked is not as powerful as raw, and the longer garlic cooks, the mellower it becomes.
Finally, we went back to the recipe. The cloves are left whole, and they simmer merrily with the chicken for a very long time. By the time Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic gets to the table, the garlic is so meltingly soft and sweet that it’s often spread on bread or stirred back into the sauce. No wonder Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic is a classic.
—By Jean Kressy