Roast Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

Almost everything I cook (which is savoury) starts with the same two ingredients: onion and garlic. Garlic is everywhere. Its pungent smell and flavour make it a popular seasoning for food as comparatively little is needed to impact the overall flavour. What I find a shame, however, is how rare it is for garlic to get the opportunity to act as the main flavour of a dish. When I was an undergraduate, my housemate introduced me to a dish called garlic pasta. Now, I have always added a small amount of garlic to my pasta dishes but the idea of frying a large quantity of garlic in oil and using that as the pasta sauce (along with some cherry tomatoes/onion) was a bit foreign to me. This is an ultimate comfort food – right up there with tomato soup. That dish, along with Yotam Ottolenghi’s caramelised garlic tart and the recipe I am giving today, brings the total of garlic-centric dishes I know up to three so if you have any ideas, I would love to hear them!

Garlic is an allium – that is to say that it is in the same genus (family) as the onion, the leek, shallots and chives. It is used more as a flavouring than the base for a dish unlike the other members of its family (excluding chives as they are a herb). Smoked bulbs of garlic are an often used ingredient and black garlic has been increasing in popularity for a long time. Black garlic is created by heating normal bulbs to between 60 and 77°C for two to three months. This temperature allows our old friend the Malliard reacton to occur throughout the entirety of the bulb, not just on the surface. For those of you have not come across the Malliard reaction before, this is what causes food to brown when you cook it. It is a non-enzymatic reaction between reducing sugars and amino acids on the surface of the food. The conditions in which black garlic is created allow for this reaction to be more than surface deep.

As well as its culinary uses garlic has been used as a medicine for millennia (Sanskrit records date its use back 5000 years. In ancient Egypt, garlic was used as a form of currency; in Auryvedic medicine garlic is used as an aphrodisiac; in the bible, the Jews wandering in the desert complained to Moses about the foods they missed since leaving Egypt, one of which included garlic; and of course, one cannot talk about the appearances of garlic throughout history and folklore without mentioning one of the most famous of them all: the vampire. Garlic was believed to ward off demons, werewolves and vampires – a wreath of garlic flowers or even bulbs around the neck along with the rubbing of cut cloves of garlic around windows, doors and chimneys was meant to protect the inhabitants of the house form harm.

If there are medical benefits to eating copious quantities of garlic, then this recipe is the one for you. Much as I try to give a vegetarian alternative to my recipes, I am not sure how if I could do anything to make this less meaty so unfortunately, I’ll have to give that a miss this week. If you are a fan of chicken, I hope you like the recipe and if you aren’t, why not try it with a different roast meat? Enjoy, and I’ll see you next week with a dish that’s a little bit more vegetarian friendly.

Roast Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes per kilogram + 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 large chicken

2 heads of garlic

100ml olive oil

1 tsp salt

2 large onions

125ml white wine/vermouth

3 bay leaves (optional)

½ lemon (optional)

Separate and peel the cloves from one head of garlic.

Blend the garlic cloves with the olive oil and salt until smooth.

Optional: joint the chicken – removing the bottom, scaly parts of the legs from the base of the drumsticks and remove the wings. We use these for making stock at home but you can leave them on if you wish.

Cut out the oil glands at the base of the Parson’s nose and discard them.

Place the chicken into a roasting dish.

If possible – this will often require an extra pair of hands as one pair isn’t quite enough – try and pour half of the garlic oil underneath the skin. This will help the flavour infuse into the meat of the chicken.

Rub the rest of the garlic oil all over the outside of the chicken pouring any excess inside the body cavity.

Stuff half a lemon into the body cavity.

Cut the onions into eigths and spread the piece out around the chicken.

Pour over the wine/vermouth and add the bay leaves.

Separate the cloves of garlic from the second bulb but do not peel them! Just sprinkle them liberally around the chicken. The garlic will go soft and sweeten up in the oven.

Cover and leave until you wish to put the chicken in the oven.

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To cook the chicken, preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200°C).

Cook the chicken for 20 minutes plus 45 minutes per kilogram (eg, a 1.5kg chicken would cook for just a touch under an hour and a half).

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For ultra-crispy skin, uncover the chicken for the last ten minutes of baking but be careful not to burn it.

This roast chicken is absolutely delicious and like any roast meat, goes perfectly well with super crispy roast potatoes – I like to cook mine for at least 75 minutes to get them so hard you need a small industrial jackhammer to cut them.

If you want to try roasting a chicken but don’t want to do something that prevents you from human interaction after eating the way this quantity of garlic will, leave out the garlic and oil and just replace the wine with cooking sherry for a more basic but still delicious roast dinner.

If you like chicken, you should most definitely check out Jo Bellerina’s sticky mango chicken, it is stunning!

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for a swiss roll with a twist…

H

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