Recipe: Roast Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

This classic recipe is something I’ve been wanting to make for a while. I’d read about it occasionally in foodie magazines, there’s variations featured in a couple of my cookbooks. But I’ve always been a bit scared to try it. I mean, I love garlic but 40 cloves!? Every part of my brain said it wouldn’t work, but eventually I gathered up the courage and just gave it a go. And I’m sure glad I did!

Instead of being harshly garlicky, the slower simmering of the cloves means the garlic cooks down and becomes sweet and fragrant. The chicken is tender and moist, to the point of falling apart. The sauce is light, yet flavourful. Served with mashed potato (with some of the soft garlic stirred through) and green vegetables, I find this is the perfect summery alternative to a more traditional roast chicken.

Recipe – 1 large chicken would served 5/6 (or gives plenty of leftovers)

  • 5-6 banana shallots peeled and halved lengthways
  • 1 whole chicken
  • ½ lemon
  • 25g butter
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 40 garlic cloves (I used 3 bulbs), unpeeled
  • 1 small glass of white wine
  • 250ml chicken stock (from a cube is fine, homemade is extra yummy)
  • 1 tbsp dried tarragon
  • 1 tbsp crème fraîche

Remove any string from the chicken and place the lemon inside the cavity. Generously season the chicken inside and out with plenty of salt and pepper. Heat the butter and oil in a large flameproof casserole. Brown the chicken over a medium-high heat for a couple of minutes on each side. Add the whole garlic cloves and shallots to the casserole, nestling around the chicken, and poking some of the garlic inside the cavity with the lemon.

Pour over the wine and chicken stock. Cover the casserole with a tight-fitting lid and bring the liquid to a simmer on the hob, then transfer to the oven and cook for 1¼ hours at 200C. Check that the chicken is cooked by piercing the thickest part of the thigh and ensuring the juices are clear.

Transfer the chicken to a warmed plate to rest whilst you make the sauce. Skim off any fat in the casserole pan and discard, then return to the hob and stir in the tarragon and crème fraîche. Squeeze in half of the garlic cloves (reserving the rest for another day, or use in the mashed potato). Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer, stirring, then season to taste and serve alongside the chicken.

Not only does this dish taste delicious, but the cooking smells are insanely good!

Are you a fan of Sunday roasts, or do you like to mix things up a bit?