Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Best Chicken EVER - 40 Clove Chicken a la Barefoot Contessa

40 Clove Chicken ready for the oven
And I don't say that lightly. This is literally THE best chicken dish I've ever made. I'd been knocking around the idea of trying James Beard's recipe for 40 Clove Chicken for a while (you braise the chicken with vermouth and whole unpeeled garlic cloves) - when I ran across this one, and just thought it looked and sounded so much better. I do still want to try the original, but it will be hard to resist the temptation just to make this again.

It's so easy - much easier than the Spanish braised chicken dish I made a few days earlier with almonds and olives (though that was pretty good too.) I browned the chicken pieces (I recommend legs and thighs) in my Le Creuset in a little bit of butter and olive oil - then removed them from the pan and added the garlic cloves - sauteeing them in the oil and pan juices until they were nice and golden colored. You just have to keep them moving around to prevent anything from getting too brown.
Frying Garlic for 40 Clove Chicken
When the garlic cloves were nice and golden - I added some wine and cognac (Courvoisier, since that's what I had) - put the chicken back in the pan, and topped it with some chopped fresh herbs. The recipe calls for thyme, which I'm sure would be great - but I used some chopped sage and parsley since that's what I had. I also tucked a couple of bay leaves in among the chicken pieces. The recipe then said to cook it on the stove top until the chicken is tender - but I put it in the oven at 350 for about 45 minutes - just like the Spanish recipe I'd made a few days earlier, and that other French recipe I did a few weeks back.

When that came out of the oven - I removed the chicken and put it on a baking sheet and heated the broiler - then turned my attention to the sauce. I brought the juices in the pot to a boil, and took about half a cup and whisked it with 2 Tablespoons of Wondra in a separate bowl, then added that back to the pot - whisking until thickened. I then added another couple of tablespoons of cognac, some salt and pepper, and a little splash of cream. When this was close to done - I popped the chicken under the broiler to brown a little - since the skin had become a little flabby during the braising process. This also worked great for reheating it without having to keep it warm. Again - soooo easy.
Barefoot Contessa 40 Clove Chicken
During the cooking process, the garlic sort of melts into the sauce - the cloves become incredibly sweet, but strangely not too strong. The flavor is amazing with the wine, cognac, cream and garlic. With a green salad, more wine and bread? It's just like the best chicken and gravy you've ever had.

40 Clove Chicken "a la Barefoot Contessa"
from this recipe from the Barefoot Contessa, as adapted by Adam, a.k.a. the Amateur Gourmet

40 whole cloves of garlic, peeled (I bought the pre-peeled garlic cloves in the refrigerated section at Trader Joes and they worked great - if you are using heads of garlic about 3 should do it - dunk the unpeeled cloves in boiling water for about 1 minute to remove the skins.)
8-10 Chicken thighs and legs - skin on
kosher salt

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons Cognac, divided
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
2 tablespoons fresh herbs (I used sage and parsley - the original recipe calls for thyme)
2 tablespoons Wondra or All Purpose Flour
3-4 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350. Dry the chicken and season liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat the butter and oil in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

In batches, brown the chicken in the fat, skin side down first, about 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Turn with tongs or a spatula; you don't want to pierce the skin with a fork.

Remove the chicken to a plate and add all of the garlic cloves to the pot. Lower the heat and saute for 5 to 10 minutes, turning often, until evenly browned. Add 2 tablespoons of the Cognac and all of the wine, raise the heat to bring to a boil, and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Boil for one minute.

Return the chicken to the pot and sprinkle with the herbs. Tuck the bay leaves in with the chicken pieces, cover and braise in the oven for about 45 minutes, until the chicken is extremely tender.

Using tongs, remove the chicken to a rimmed baking sheet. (Be careful, it might fall apart.) and turn the oven up to broil. Place the dutch oven on the stove and raise the heat to high. Remove half a cup of the liquid and whisk in the Wondra or flour, then whisk it back into the sauce in the pot. When the mixture boils, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of Cognac and boil until it starts to thicken. Meanwhile, run the chicken under the broiler for about 3-5 minutes. Whisk the cream, salt and pepper into the sauce. When the sauce and chicken are ready - place the chicken on a plate and pour the sauce over. Pass additional sauce on the side.

Serves 4-6.


  1. Woah! That is a picture worthy of serious screen licking. I've always been skeptical about that recipe since 40 cloves of garlic is probably enough to kill a vampire but your images look fabulous. I'll have to give this a go this summer. Thanks for posting.

  2. Looks fantastic! You can't beat a sauce of wine, cognac, cream and a lot of garlic.

  3. Mmm! I've been making this recipe since Barefoot in Paris came out a few years ago. It is so great, isn't it?! Yours looks fab :)

  4. Unlike Erin, I've always been tempted by this recipe BECAUSE of the 40 garlic cloves. This looks good, and one day, I swear I shall try it.

  5. This does sound fantastic!

  6. Erin - Thanks! It's really not that strong, though my mother probably wouldn't like it - she proclaimed my caesar salad made with 5 cloves of garlic inedible - but those WERE raw.

    Chuck - you sir are correct about that!

    Maia - Ah - I don't have the book, but it makes sense that it would be in there. Maybe I should get it!

    Steph - you should try it, it's could even be lightened, with no skin and half and half or milk instead of cream and subbing some broth for the fat. I should try it out.

    Kalyn - Thanks! Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow!!

  7. THIS IS THE BEST CHICKEN I ALSO HAVE EVER TASTED! My husband made this a couple of years ago-(and many times since) after we saw it on her show. If you have not tried it, please do---soon!


  8. This looks sensational and qualifies in my book as comfort food. Yum!

  9. In the oven as we speak.....I'll let you know the result in a couple of hours!

  10. Wow that recipe is an awesome addition to any of the chicken recipes I usually make.

  11. Fantastic. Wow. I am often a lousy cook, especially the first time I try a new recipe, but this recipe came out flawless and had few enough ingredients that I didn't screw it up. I didn't have a Dutch oven, so I just used a large pot on the stovetop, then a baking dish in the oven. At this moment I am making this delectable dish for the third time in three weeks, and my husband and I have still not grown tired of it.

  12. This is the BEST chicken I have ever eaten or made... My Mom is a fantastic cook as is the rest of the film and I cannot wait to make this for them as they will die- It was very easy and the gravy it makes is knock down drag out fantastic!!

  13. Made this last night. Sauce was amazing. The chicken was tuff. I did the 30 min on the stove top. Ne t time I will do an hour in the over to make the chicken tender. I only used bone in chicken breasts. Maybe it was just a tuff old chicken. Who knows. Listen people you can hardly taste the garlic after is all cooked. Amazing.