I was one of those who rarely buy cookbooks. I used to mostly get my recipes from the magazines or over the internet. While I do have a few books in possession in Thai and English, classic and new, I never really “read” them.
I know that Chef Jay (who contributed a few posts here a while ago) reads cookbooks like us muggles do with paperbacks. When he recommended Mark Peel’s New Classic Family Dinners to me, he told me that I should actually read it.
So I did pay attention to non-recipe stuff. And I did learn a few things. But I didn't pick up any more cookbooks off my shelf to read.
So when I told Pim of Chez Pim back in September during my visit, she looked at me in disbelief. After picking her jaw up off the floor, Pim began my reprogramming. A mentor that she is, she took me on a raid of a local used bookstore for a few gems and then sent me home with a few more from her own shelves. She emphasized what Chef Jay had already told me: If you want to be a better cook, do READ the cookbooks.
So now, instead of jumping to the internet for a recipe, I first search my cookbooks. I may not have actually read many of them but by flipping through them, I'm absorbing a few things more than before. I’m also familiarizing myself with the contents of these books. At least I know where to come back to and what to read next time.
Brandon laughed the first time he found me with 5 cookbooks spread across the couch on Saturday afternoon, researching for what to make for my weekend supper. It has now become a familiar sight on Friday nights, or Saturday and Sunday mornings.
For New Year’s Eve dinner, I agreed to cook for James and Aurora and her sister Lee. I remembered having seen a recipe for Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic from one of my recent flip-throughs. It would be perfect. After all, James proposed to Aurora at the Stinking Rose in Beverly Hills, famous for their garlic-everything menu!
And there it was in the Cook’s Illustrated The New Best Recipes (2004) Irena had given to me for my birthday those many years ago when I was just starting to learn to cook. As a matter of fact, I used to subscribe to Cook’s Illustrated magazines but was way too intimidated to cook from them then, so I rarely went to this book for anything. Until now.
This recipe was surprisingly easy to make. And it was really easy to transport too. A perfect dish for a potluck!
Oh, and fun fact: 3 heads of garlic do produce just a tad over 40 cloves of garlic! LOL
And yes, I did sit and read about this recipe and the technique required, not just grabbing the instructions and run.
Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic
Adapted from the Cook’s Illustrated The New Best Recipes
First, you brine the chicken. Then we roast the garlic and shallots. Then we brown the chicken, deglaze, and braise. Then we finish the sauce. Easy! The book says this would serve 3-4. With bread and a side salad, I served this to 5 adults just fine.
1 whole chicken, cut up to 4 breast pieces, 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks, 2 wings.
1/4 cup table salt or 1/2 cup kosher salt
2 quart cold water
Freshly ground black pepper to season
3 medium garlic heads, cloves separated, unpeeled
2 medium shallots, peeled and quartered
2 springs of fresh thyme
2 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine (I used vermouth)
3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 TBS unsalted butter
Preheat your oven to 400F.
Now, the chicken. The book have you buy a whole chicken and break it down yourself. I cheated and asked the butcher to cut up my whole organic chicken up for me. (He also bagged the carcass and giblets so I make basic stock from that too.) The original recipe says to discard the wings. Not a chance in my household! I guess if you want to use it in the stock, you can.
Now, the brine. Dissolve the salt in cold water in a large container. Immerse the chicken pieces in the brine and refrigerate about 30 minutes. Rinse the pieces in cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Season both sides with black pepper.
Meanwhile, in a 9-inch pie plate, toss the garlic and shallots with a few small glugs of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover tightly with foil and roast until soften and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes. After the first 15 minutes, shake the pan around. At 30 minutes, uncover, stir and continue to roast uncovered for about 10 minutes longer until fully tender and browned. Remove from oven and turn it up to 450F.
Make a bouquet garni (herb bundle) by tying together thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf with a kitchen twine for easy removal. Set aside. (I only had rosemary and bay leaf, so I didn't bother to tie anything.)
In a heavy-bottomed ovenproof skillet (or in my case, my dutch oven), heat another big glug of olive oil on medium-high heat until beginning to smoke. Brown the chicken pieces, skin-side down, until golden, about 5 minutes. Brown the other side for another 4 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter and discard the fat from the pan.
Off the heat, deglaze with vermouth and broth, scraping up all the brown bits then add the bouquet garni. Set the skillet over medium heat, add the roasted garlic-shallot mixture, and return the chicken, skin side up, to the pan.
Place the skillet in the oven and roast until the instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers about 160F, 10-12 minutes. You can increase the heat to broil to crisp up the skin, 3-5 minutes. Transfer chicken to a serving dish. (If you're transporting the chicken and you have an oven there, save the broiling until you get to your destination. I put the chicken in an ovenproof dish and broil the chicken at Aurora’s so the chicken is both reheated and crisped.)
Using a slotted spoon, discard the herbs, and remove the garlic and shallots to place around the chicken, and set about 10-12 garlic cloves aside.
Over the skillet, push the reserved garlic through a mesh sieve into the sauce, discard the skin. (I just pushed them through my garlic press instead. Easy!) Bring the sauce to simmer over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally to incorporate the garlic. Adjust seasoning. Whisk in butter. Pour sauce into a gravy boat or a serving bowl to serve with chicken. (For transport, pour the sauce into a container and reheat at your destination.)
Serve the chicken with crusty bread to sop up the sauce and to spread the lovely roasted garlic on.