Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic. 40. Yes, you read that correctly…the big four oh.

Can you imagine how shocking this recipe must have been back in the 1950s when people barely cooked with one clove of garlic let alone 40?

This simple masterpiece of a recipe comes from the great James Beard. There are many versions of chicken with a gazillion cloves of garlic, but this is about as close to the original as you can get.

I got it from my friend Cody who also gave me the wonderful James Beard recipe for Chicken with delicious Sherry Sauce.

The best thing about this recipe (other than the great flavor) is that everything goes into one pot and into the oven. It takes 90 minutes to cook but during that time you do nothing to it. In fact, you are forbidden to open the oven and peek inside the pot. Can’t get much easier than that.

And before you start worrying about ALL THAT GARLIC, let me assure you that as it cooks, the cloves of garlic are transformed into a soft, subtle, not at all stinky, paste of garlic goodness. It’s like magic.

Here’s what you need:

Chicken pieces – drumsticks and/0r thighs*, Celery, Onions, Garlic!, Parsley, Dry Vermouth, Olive Oil, Tarragon, Nutmeg, Salt & Pepper.

Click here for a Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic Shopping List

I’m going to have to go back and check, but I’m pretty sure almost every photo of the ingredients for a chicken dish on this website also contains that nice black cat. Gus is ever hopeful that someone will drop a chicken leg.

For this recipe you also need a large pot with a lid and heavy duty aluminum foil.

You also ABSOLUTELY need a nice, big, crusty loaf of French Bread. It’s a must.


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Begin by slicing 2 medium onions. I cut the onions in half and then cut across the top of the onion. You can separate the slices when you put them into the pot.

Wash 4 ribs of celery and cut them into thin strips about 3 inches long. Think how you would cut celery for a dip or relish tray. Don’t forget to use the tops with the leaves…they have the best flavor.

Drizzle a little olive oil (about 1 Tablespoon) into the bottom of the pot and then fill it up with the sliced onions and celery.

Add several sprigs of fresh parsley (6 -8 sprigs) and some tarragon – either 1 teaspoon dried or 1 Tablespoon fresh. The tarragon is the special ingredient that gives this chicken such amazing flavor. Don’t skip the tarragon!

Pour about 1/2 cup of olive oil into a bowl or small pan. Thoroughly coat all of the chicken pieces in the olive oil and then place them into the big pot on top of the veggies.

As you can see, I am using chicken legs and thighs. I have removed the skin from the thighs because of my well documented hatred of chicken skin. Since our household is something of a democracy, I left the skin on the drummies for Jim.

*Cody suggests using chicken quarter pieces that are the thigh and drumstick attached. (I just happened to have a handy photo here from another recipe).

Whichever cut of chicken you choose, you want between 8 – 10 small pieces or 4 of the bigger leg/thigh quarters. Just enough to fill up the pot.

Instead of the usual white wine, this recipe uses Dry Vermouth, an ingredient most happily associated with martinis.

Vermouth is a fortified wine meaning that it starts with grapes like regular wine but then alcohol and other herbs and flavors are added. It tastes much drier than white wine and adds a great flavor to the sauce.

You can find Vermouth in the wine section of the store. Just be sure to buy DRY Vermouth and not Sweet Vermouth. Dry Vermouth = chicken and martinis. Sweet Vermouth = Bourbon and Manhattans. Both good, just be sure to use the right one.

Add 1 1/2 cups of Dry vermouth to the pot.

After adding the vermouth, season the chicken liberally with salt and pepper. I seasoned my chicken before and had to re-season it because the vermouth washed all the pepper off the meat. Oops.

Add a pinch of nutmeg to complete the seasoning. I have a whole nutmeg nut that I grate but you can certainly use powdered nutmeg from the jar. Add a pinch.

And now the garlic! I have 5 heads of garlic. No, I am not going to count out 40 exact cloves.

Break apart the heads and remove the filmy white outer paper but keep the individual cloves of garlic in their peels.

Add the garlic cloves, 40 or more, to the pot and nestle them down around the chicken pieces.

Cover the pot with 2 layers of heavy duty aluminum foil and then put on the lid. This is important to trap all the steam into the pot while the chicken cooks.

Place the covered pot in a 375 degree oven and cook for 90 minutes without peeking or removing the lid.

Cody suggests that if you are using the larger quarter leg pieces of chicken, you might want to increase the cooking time to 2 hours.

When the time is up, your chicken and garlic has magically transformed into the most tender, fall off the bone chicken you’ve ever had. The vermouth has blended with the juices from the chicken and the vegetables to make a delicious, but light sauce.

The vegetables are tender and so amazing. I was really skeptical about the celery but I’m totally converted. Braised celery is incredibly tasty.

Oh, and the garlic? Those 40 cloves of garlic are now soft and wonderful! The long cooking time transforms the garlic from pungent to perfection. It is mild and so creamy.

Grab a slice of that crusty french bread and squeeze the garlic right out of a clove.

If you were not a fan of roasted garlic before, you will be now.

Serve the chicken with the vegetables, sauce, and lots of bread for dipping!

Here’s the recipe

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic

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3 Responses

  1. WOW, this one is GOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!!!!!!!! Yes, Roasted Garlic squeezes onto French Bread and does not taste real garlicky.
    Some fancy schmanzy restaurants serve roasted garlic on bread as appetizers.
    I’ll take the Martinis without the Vermouth, pour a little Olive Juice into them and make them dirty!!!!!!!! But for those, it needs to be cold outside…………………..

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