40 Cloves of Garlic

Cookbooks come in all shapes and sizes, and so do cookbook readers: distinguished by such telling factors as where we keep our books (kitchen shelf, or bedside table) and whether we must have photographs.  I like an image-heavy well-illustrated cookbook, but I’ll settle for some juicy text (e.g. Nigella Lawson, How to Eat).  I have an aunt who won’t even touch a cookbook, must less test a recipe, unless the entire volume is well evidenced in pictures.  While not quite as extreme as she, I have to agree: the actual formulae are the least interesting bits to me.

But this recipe, sans illustration of any kind, leapt from the pages of December’s Food & Wine.  “Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic,” as part of a collection of best slow-cooker recipes.  Its leap was springboarded by several outstanding factors:

  • 40 cloves of garlic.
  • Slow-cooker
  • You don’t peel the garlic!
  • 40 cloves of garlic.*

*I don’t think it’s really 40; the recipe kindly spares us the trouble of not only peeling but also counting the garlic.

Better still, it was a perfect fit for December’s Pantry Detox… I had all of the ingredients but the leeks, and several were on my must-consume list.

The process, like all good slow cooker recipes, was straightforward and painless:  (I more or less halved the recipe…. more or less referring to more saffron, garlic, and wine, and less butter.)

  1. Let a pinch of saffron soak in 1.5 cups of white wine.
  2. Saute a chopped leeked in a tablespoon of butter (I used ghee) with a quarter teaspoon of nutmeg.
  3. Season six chicken thighs with salt and pepper and cover with the saffron wine.  Let soak a while.
  4. Put everything in the slow cooker with the unpeeled cloves of two heads of garlic.  I think I added a small amount of additional liquid–wine and chicken stock, until the thighs were just covered.
  5. Simmer.  (My usual approach with slow cookers is: High until a gentle boil, then Low all day or night.)
  6. Throw in some green and black olives at the end.  (Recipe says last 15 minutes; I tossed them in after the heat was off.)

When I woke the next morning, from bed, I could smell butter and saffron bubbling in the kitchen.  The garlic (skin and all) had melted into little truffles and the chicken was ridiculous: velvet-smooth, moist, and heavily perfumed.  That small amount of ghee, trapped in the crock of a slow cooker, had nowhere to go but into the bird. 

It is not an attractive dish–I think F&W knew something when they printed this in cognito, and at work someone called my lunch “lumpy”–but for the photo I punched it up with some rosemary sprigs and an artichoke heart that were hanging around.  I’ll bet lemon zest would be awesome on this, too.

Hopefully it looks okay to you.  I hope you’ll dream of it and wake in the morning to 40 garlic truffles in saffron.

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