Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

All, French, Poultry

This is one of the most delicious and elegant of all chicken recipes. This is a French classic from Provençal. If you’re having company over, print a menu and call it “Poulet à Quarante Gousses d’Ail.”

I’ve adapted several recipes for the one shown here, so it’s not quite as much work as usual. But it’s every bit as good; in fact the sauce, which is the most important part, is better than I’ve made from anyone else’s recipe.

In the photo, the dish is served with home-grown Swiss chard and pan roasted potatoes. However, this would be good with nearly any vegetables, and steamed or mashed potatoes would help soak up more sauce.


1 whole chicken
3 heads of garlic
giblets and neck from chicken (don’t worry, you’re going to throw them away soon)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrot
2 sprigs of thyme
1 sprig of rosemary
2 bay leaves
olive oil
3 tablespoons butter


To start with, clean and rinse the chicken. Save the stuff you take out of the cavity. Put the chicken in a zip lock bag and brine it for 1/2 to one hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Take three heads of garlic and separate the cloves without peeling them. You’ll wind up with about 40. Whatever the number, use them all. Discard all the paper, and put the unpeeled cloves aside.

While the chicken is brining, put the neck and giblets in a sauce pan with a little olive oil and start browning. Meanwhile, chop up some carrot, onion, and celery. Make about 1/2 cup of each, and add to the pan. Add more oil if necessary. After 20 minutes or so, stirring now and then, add 1/2 cup of white wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits of stuff that sticks to the pan. Now add 2 cups of chicken broth, the rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves and simmer for 10 or 15 minutes. By now the place smells really good and people are asking what’s for dinner. Maybe also the neighbors.

Rinse off the chicken, and pat it dry. Rub it all over with olive oil and sprinkle with pepper. (Because of the brining, you don’t need salt.) Place it on a v-rack in a roasting pan. Dump the contents of the sauce pan into the roasting pan and add another cup of water. Put the garlic cloves also in the pan, but since you are going to separate them later, you might well put them all at one end so you can find them later. If you want to, you can also put some more thyme and rosemary into the chicken cavity. I think I will try a piece of lemon in there also, next time.

Put the chicken in the oven for about 60 minutes, turning the pan halfway through to even the browning. The breast should measure about 160 degrees when it’s done. Remove the chicken from the oven, place on a cutting board, and cover loosely with foil.

Remove the v-rack and put the roasting pan on the stove. Remove the garlic. Strain the contents of the pan into a sauce pan, pressing on the solids to squeeze the juices out before discarding.

The garlic will have roasted to a paste, which you recover just by squeezing the cloves between your fingers. Squeeze the paste into the sauce, and stir. After simmering for a few minutes, add the butter a few pieces at a time, whisking constantly. This will finish and thicken the sauce.

Now it’s time to carve the chicken and serve dinner. Have some rolls ready or slice some French bread. Get ready for the rave reviews!

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