We trust each other, right? Because this recipe for 40 Clove Garlic Chicken is going to require a bit of trust on your part — as in this recipe requires a ton of garlic but I’m not leading you astray, pinky promise. 40 Clove Garlic Chicken is one of those dishes that’s pretty common but also (usually) pretty average. Most often, the garlic is either undetectable or way too harsh and seemingly nothing in between. So, I set on a mission to resolve that and I figured it out in time for Valentine’s Day — fittingly ironic, don’t you think?
The key to this 40 Clove Garlic Chicken is in the garlic sauce — made with vermouth, broth, and loads of sweet toasted garlic, it’s the element missing from every other recipe I’ve tried. Add to that a little garlic under the chicken skin and serve it with these garlic crostini and you’ve got a one, two, three garlic punch. But it doesn’t knock you out. After slow roasting for almost an hour, the result is a roasted garlic flavor that’s sweet but pronounced and by no means bitter — just like a good Valentine’s date, don’t you think?
plus more for garnish
about 1 1/2 pounds
peeled without any white pith
Heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Mince 2 of the garlic cloves with 2 teaspoons of the thyme leaves, and 2 teaspoons of salt. Continue, wiping the blade of your knife across the mixture and chopping until you have a uniform paste. With clean hands, gently lift the chicken skin without tearing it and stuff the paste underneath the loosened skin and massage it into the meat so it's evenly distributed. Season the chicken all over with additional salt and pepper and set aside.
Seasoning the chicken under the skin allows the flavor to go into the chicken meat instead of the skin!
Heat a large heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium heat and add 3 tablespoons of the oil. When wisps of smoke come off the oil, add the chicken, skin-side down, and cook, undisturbed until the skin is golden brown, about 7 to 10 minutes. Flip and cook skin-side up for just 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the chicken to a rimmed baking sheet or plate and return the pan to the stove.
Check every few minutes by using tongs to gently peek at the skin and, if it is getting browner in some spots than others, turn your pan so the skin cooks evenly.
Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and all but 2 cloves of the remaining garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown in a few spots, about 5 minutes. Remove 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil from the pan then return to the stove. Add the vermouth and cook, scraping the bottom of the pot until the alcohol smell is cooked off, about 2 minutes. Add the broth, bring to a boil, then cover and cook until the garlic is knife tender and a few cloves are mashable, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Transfer mixture to a blender and process until very smooth, seasoning as needed with salt and pepper. Place the sauce in a small saucepan and set aside. Cut the onion in half then trim off the ends so the onion sits flat. Place the onion halves in the bottom of a 2 quart baking dish then spoon in 3 tablespoons of the garlic sauce and add the lemon peel. Arrange the chicken breasts on top and place in the oven.
Roast the chicken, basting with the reserved garlic oil every 15 minutes, until the chicken is tender and cooked through, about 45 minutes total. Meanwhile, brush the bread slices with half of the remaining olive oil and place in the oven until the slices are crisp and golden brown. When the croutons are toasted, rub them with the remaining 2 cloves of garlic until the garlic dissolves into the toast then drizzle each toast with remaining oil and a pinch of salt.
As needed, reheat the sauce over medium-low heat and add salt or pepper as desired. To serve, arrange the toasts in a dish, add a few spoonfuls of the sauce and top with the chicken. Top the chicken with an additional spoon of sauce and some additional thyme leaves for garnish. Serve remaining sauce on the side.