Classic French chicken dish embraces garlic — 40 cloves of it

40 cloves of garlic are used in a classic Provençal chicken dish. (Kasarp Techawongtham/Dreamstime/TNS)

It’s easy to see why a recipe that starts with 40 cloves of garlic might appear suspect. Most recipes that include garlic call for somewhere between two and six cloves, so 40 would seem like an insane amount. Trust me, it’s not.

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic is actually a classic Provençal dish, first made popular on our shores by famed food writer James Beard, who insisted that you count out the cloves to ensure you were using the correct number.

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Once you try it, you’ll immediately understand why Beard didn’t want anyone to skimp on the star ingredient.

Cooking the whole cloves slowly, alongside the chicken, takes all the bite out of them and turns them soft and sweet. They’re perfect for spreading, like butter, onto good-quality bread.

This recipe starts by boiling the garlic cloves briefly in water, which accomplishes two things: It helps to easily peel the cloves and it starts the cooking process for them.

Chicken thighs are sautéed skin-side down in a hot skillet. They’re then transferred to a plate, and the peeled, parboiled garlic cloves are tossed into the skillet to brown.

Then white wine, chicken broth and cream are added and brought to a boil. The chicken is nestled back into the skillet, with the skin above the liquid line to maintain its crispiness, along with fresh sprigs of thyme, and cooked in the oven until tender.

The taste and aroma of this dish will make you feel like you’re eating dinner in a cozy French bistro.

Chicken Thighs with 40 Cloves of Garlic

Serves 6 to 8.

Serve this iconic French dish with a good-quality baguette.

• 3 whole heads garlic, about 40 cloves

• 8 (7 to 8 oz.) bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed

• 3/4 tsp. salt

• 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• 1 tbsp. olive oil

• 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour

• 1 c. dry white wine

• 3/4 c. low-sodium chicken broth

• 1/4 c. heavy cream

• 4 sprigs fresh thyme

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Separate the cloves of garlic and drop them into a pot of boiling water for 2 minutes (1 or 2 minutes longer if the cloves are large). Drain the garlic, let cool for a few minutes and peel. Set aside.

Dry the chicken with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper on both sides.

Heat the oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, place the chicken in the skillet, skin-side down, and cook until browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate, skin-side up. Repeat with remaining chicken. Do not clean the skillet.

Add the garlic to the same skillet with the drippings. Lower the heat to medium and cook for 3 to 6 minutes, turning often, until evenly browned. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Whisk in the wine, broth and cream. Return to a boil and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the thyme and the chicken back to skillet, nestling into the liquid, keeping the skin above the surface. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake, uncovered, until the chicken is tender and cooked through (an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thighs should register 185 degrees), about 30 to 35 minutes. Remove the thyme sprigs and discard.

Spoon sauce and garlic into serving bowls and place chicken over the top. Serve hot with French bread, if desired.