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Good morning everyone!
After looking at today’s banner image you probably had a reaction of outright joy, morbid curiosity or intense fear.
I wanted to try this new thing where I fuck around with a famous chef’s signature dish. I’m thinking about making it a recurring feature here.
Today we are paying tribute to James Beard by making his famous dish of “Chicken and 40 Cloves of Garlic.”
Chicken and 40 cloves first appeared in 1974 and it was created by James Beard to convince people to get over their fear of garlic. During the early to mid 1900’s garlic was not exactly popular. Many folks associated it negatively with Italian immigrants and the racist non-Italian goddamn idiots of that era stayed away from fresh garlic. The concept of this dish was to prove that even though the dish is made with just a fucking insane amount of fresh garlic, after slow cooking the garlic for an hour and a half the garlic would not only lose it’s bite or pungency, it would evolve into this glorious, almost butter-like paste that had just “essence” of garlic.
Did it work?
You’ll find out!
James Beard was a big fan of French cuisine after being stationed in Provence during World War II. The idea behind his cooking was to use very fresh ingredients, prepared simply. Similar to modern day French and Italian cooking. Cook what’s in season.
Beard is credited with hosting the very first cooking show on television in 1946, “I Love to Cook.” It was his inspiration, along with Julia Child, that convinced home cooks to experiment and not to be intimidated by advanced cooking techniques. Basically you could say that without them we wouldn’t have two entire networks devoted to food as we do today.
I recently read a book written by Sarah Lohman called “Eight Flavors”.
It detailed the history of American cuisine and how it was influenced by 8 distinct ingredients: black pepper, vanilla, curry powder, chili powder, soy sauce, garlic, MSG, and Sriracha. Sarah did incredible research on each item and there is a chapter devoted to each flavor in the book. It was in the chapter on garlic where Sarah gave credit to James Beard for introducing, or demystifying fresh garlic to mainstream America. It also credits today’s specific recipe.
It’s a really fun and interesting book and I can heartily recommend it if you like reading about food and food history.
You regular readers know of my outright goddamn love affair with garlic so you know I had to give this fucker a go.
I’ll bet some of you have seen “Chicken and 40 Cloves” on some restaurant menus before. It’s a pretty classic recipe. Think of it as a folk song that’s been covered about a million fucking times with chefs putting their own spin on it.
I went to the goddamn source for this one and used the original recipe written by James Beard himself.
What does 40 cloves of garlic actually look like?
Like that. Actually there are 43 cloves of garlic there. That’s from the 3 bulbs of garlic in the banner picture plus some of the leftover garlic I already had.
This recipe is also crazy fucking easy to make.
James Beard’s Chicken and 40 (43) Cloves of Garlic!
8 to 10 chicken legs
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 tablespoons olive oil
40 cloves garlic, approximately 3 bulbs – separated but left in their skins
1/4 cup of dry white wine – (improv alert! The original recipe called for vermouth here but I swear to god I looked and couldn’t find it at my store! I used wine instead.)
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
4 stalks celery, very thinly sliced
1 tablespoon dried tarragon
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
Crusty bread to serve with
Before getting started I have to insist you use chicken legs here. I will even offer scientific proof why later.
Procure yourself some chicken legs!
There we go, I also got that celery all chopped up. You don’t have to use the bougie-ass free range organic chicken, in fact plain-ass chicken would be just fine. This is what my store had.
Pat the chicken dry then season with some salt, pepper and NUTMEG!
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Get out your trusty Dutch oven that has a lid and get that pot over medium heat on your stove top.
Add in the olive oil to the Dutch oven.
When the oil is hot get that chicken in that damn pot!
Work in batches to avoid overcrowding. Cook the chicken for about 5-6 minutes per side. Give it a flip.
Remove the browned chicken to a plate and finish cooking all of the chicken.
Now, about that scientific proof shit I mentioned.
Yep. Those are two boneless/skinless chicken breasts. Eldest brother doesn’t like chicken on the bone and that’s strictly between him and his therapist. I can’t fix his shit. He did request the boneless/skinless breasts so I acquiesced.
Stay tuned to find out the results!
After the chicken has browned, it’s time to get that ass-ton of garlic into the pan.
We’re going to brown the garlic in the oil and the chicken juices for 6-8 minutes until a toasty golden brown.
Let’s discuss the garlic at this point. I researched the shit out of this recipe and while most of the basics were the same, there were 2 schools on the peeled vs unpeeled garlic. Shit man, that recipe link up there from the goddamn JAMES BEARD FOUNDATION says to peel the garlic.
One of the original quotes from the man himself said that when eating this dish you should “squeeze the cooked/roasted garlic out of their skins directly onto a piece of crusty bread.” That’s James Beard saying that.
Besides, you think I wanted to peel 43 cloves of motherfucking garlic?
We went unpeeled and it was perfect. Besides that linked recipe up there has an “Adapted from” caveat so I’m still thinking the original recipe left the cloves unpeeled.
Remove the browned garlic from the pan and deglaze the pan with the white wine. I used a lovely Italian pinot grigio for this. Simmer for just a minute or two then in go the chicken stock, the garlic, the celery and the tarragon.
Bring this to a boil then add in the browned chicken and any chicken juices to the pan.
Mix well to ensure we have garlic all over the fucking place.
Cover the Dutch oven tightly with the lid and place in the 375 oven for an hour and a half. Just leave that shit alone. Don’t stir, don’t remove the lid, just let it do it’s fucking thing.
Ninety minutes later, remove the pot from the oven.
I let this cool for about 10 minutes because it would be hotter than fuck at this point.
Use this time to chop up your fresh parsley.
When the ten minutes are up remove the lid and add in the chopped parsley.
Holy fucking sweet Sonny Jesus would you look at that? The smell is otherworldly. Just insane.
The original recipe says to serve this with some crusty bread and that’s it. This fucking thing has so much goddamn garlic in it that the garlic is actually YOUR VEGETABLE DISH! Oh baby!
While that is totally fine as fuck with me I decided to make a side dish just to extend the meal.
I often mention “inspiration” for a dish on this here Sunday Gravy thing and my inspiration for the side dish came from here.
Scotchy and I had a fairly amusing tête-à-tête on one of the Saturday morning lesser footy posts about parmesan rind of all goddamn things and one of my own comments stuck in my head.
“/ ties Scotchy’s shoelaces together
“Make a roux of equal parts flour and butter then add in 1 cup of half and half and throw in the rind until melted. Add some black pepper and nutmeg and serve with fresh pasta.”
/ takes pizza cutter from back pocket and cackles maniacally.”
Shit, I guess technically I inspired myself!
My wedge of parmesan wasn’t quite down to only rind so apart from grating the parmesan that was left, that comment is exactly what I made.
Cheesy Parmesan Angel Hair Pasta ala yeah right.
1 pound of cooked angel hair pasta
2 tablespoons of flour
2 tablespoons of butter
1 cup of half and half
1/2 to 2/3 cup of grated parmagiano reggiano
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
Tablespoon or two of fresh chopped parsley – keep some of the parsley you chopped up for the chicken
Reserved pasta cooking water
Grate up some of that cheese.
Try not to get any on your feet.
Go ahead and cook up your pasta.
Yes, that’s some leftover store bought shit. Don’t worry! Fresh pasta is on the agenda in the very near future.
Leave the pasta al dente. Remove the pasta from the pot but keep the pasta water, we’ll need that to achieve the proper texture on the finished dish.
Now let’s get the butter and flour in the pan and work up a damn roux.
Cook the roux for about 4-5 minutes, brown roux, not dark roux and a little past blonde roux. Then add in the half and half and the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Cook until bubbly then add in the grated parmesan.
Cook until bubbly again then get those noodles in the pot.
If the noodles tighten up too much, and they probably will, ladle some of the reserved pasta water into the noodles to get to your desired consistency. Quick note: when cooled the noddles will definitely tighten right the fuck up so take that into consideration. Sprinkle the parsley over the top.
Let’s plate this motherfucker shall we?
Get a plate and scoop on some of them noodles first. Now grab some tongs and get yourself a couple of chicken legs. Man, go crazy! Get like three of them. Now the most important part: get about 15 cloves of the slow roasted garlic and scatter them all over the chicken. Get yourself some crusty bread while you’re at it.
There we go.
No man, get a little closer so we can see the garlic in there.
There we go.
The absolute key here is to use the garlic as a condiment. As James Beard originally said, squeeze the garlic out of their skins – get a little bowl or something to thrown the skins into – and just schmear that shit everywhere. Get it on that bread for sure and then all over the chicken. Oh mother of god yes.
Look at this shit.
Having the chicken on the bone is crucial. The chicken is fall apart tender and you get the notes from the nutmeg and tarragon. While we have a metric shit-ton of garlic, this dish is NOT garlic forward! Think of it more as being perfumed by garlic.
This is incredible.
The noodles are creamy cheesy deliciousness with the umami hit of the freshly grated parm. Also be sure to note the flavor profiles here with the nutmeg and parsley being featured in the main and the side dish. That shit worked!
I got downright ugly primal with this shit. I set down my fork and just grabbed hunks of the chicken with my bare hands. I squeezed that garlic on that chicken and devoured this by the fucking mouthful. I was wiping my hands off on the bread. I don’t give a single FUCK how it looked this fucker DEMANDED it!
Absolutely one of the greatest things to come out of the Sunday Gravy test kitchen. Outstanding.
Now. About the boneless/skinless chicken breasts.
Let’s refer back to this photo.
Take note how the chicken did not cook fully submerged. It was more lightly poached. Also remember, 90 fucking minutes to cook. The same 90 minutes that made the chicken legs “fall off the bone” tender made that chicken breast seize up like a 1959 Edsel with a cracked engine block.
I mean, it was a wad of protein but you couldn’t really tell what kind. It was helped immeasurably by adding about 5-6 cloves of that roasted garlic to it but I’m telling you, that chicken leg is where it’s at!
Finally the garlic was exactly how James Beard described. It spread on the crusty bread like a gooey butter. It was also very mellowed from the cooking process and was absolutely fucking dynamite. I would put that shit on my Cheerios.
Turns out there are reasons why classic recipes are still around.
Thanks for following along on this culinary investigation and exercise. I hope you learned something today.
I’ll see if I can come up with another classic recipe we can cook and deconstruct together.
Always a pleasure people.
Thanks for being there.