Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic | Image: Laura Messersmith

Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Episode: “Dinner and a Movie”

The Set-up: Ina and her card-shark friends are switching up their plans and watching a movie instead.

The Menu: Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic, Couscous with Pine Nuts and Currants, Ice Cream Bombe, Blood Orange Margaritas

0:39 – Ina starts us off by saying that for weeknight entertaining she likes making recipes that look impressive, but that are really easy to make. Great, sign me up!

1:24 – Except that this recipe for an Ice Cream Bombe already involves making your own mango sorbet – frankly this is not something I’m not likely to attempt no matter what day of the week it is.

2:06 – Mango sorbet sounds great though, so I’m willing to go along for the ride!

3:18 – While the mango sorbet chills Ina starts on the Blood Orange Margaritas. Freshly squeezed blood orange juice, natch.

4:25 – “Blood orange” is pretty grisly sounding for a fruit that produces juice the color of a Lilly Pulitzer catalog.

5:43 – Gigantic pitcher of boozy cocktails? Check!

6:10 – The mango puree goes into the ice cream maker to start setting up and it looks really good. Maybe I should add “ice cream maker” to my Christmas list?

9:36 – Back to the bombe making which involves having a graduated set of bowls so that Ina can press the sorbet between two in order to shape it.

10:14 – Jack is in charge of getting the popcorn for their movie party and now I see why Ina sounded doubtful of his abilities – he can barely find it! He finally ends up with some microwave Newman’s Own, so we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

11:35 – Over to Ina again to start the Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic. Forty!

12:51 – Pro Tip #1: Blanch the garlic in hot water for 60 seconds to help remove the paper from the cloves. Neat trick!

13:46 – Ina sings the praises of her enormous bright orange Le Creuset pot and she is preaching to the choir. This blog is sponsored (in spirit) by my blue one.

14:13 – Ice Cream Bombe layer #2 is softened raspberry sorbet compliments of Haagen Dazs which makes me wonder why she went to the trouble of making the mango layer?

15:22 – The bombe follows the same process as before – press the sorbet between two bowls (we’re now up to three in graduated sizes) and freeze.

18:56 – Now we’re making the Couscous with Pine Nuts and Currants, which Ina says will soak up the sauce from the Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic. I concur. This is a solid move.

19:20 – Ina is removing the chicken from the pot so she can make the sauce and I think Ina she made a piece of chicken for every clove of garlic. So. Much. Chicken.

20:04 – Pro Tip #2: Prevent lumps by whisking a small amount of the juices with flour in a small bowl, then return to the pot to help thicken the sauce.

21:48 – I rarely see Ina impatient, but with 34 pieces of chicken left to go back into the pot with the sauce she tired of using tongs and finally just dumps them all in at once. A woman after my own heart.

22:29 – Maybe she’s impatient with the chicken because this godforsaken Ice Cream Bombe has eleventy steps even when two of the three layers are from the freezer section.

23:32 – The strawberry ice cream, in case you were wondering, is also Haagen Dazs so again I ask: why did she make the mango?

26:45 – Time to finish up the Couscous with Pine Nuts and Currants by toasting the pine nuts (aka pignolis) and adding the currants.

27:13 – Pro Tip #3: Fluff couscous with a fork (don’t stir with a spoon) to lighten it and help the grains separate.

28:29 – Here comes Jack, popcorn and poker chips in hand. Apparently he doesn’t think the French film Ina rented will be very interesting so he brought back up. Quite the cultured one, that Jack.

29:57 – Blood Orange Margaritas have been served, dinner is done. Now, the moment of truth: can Ina unmold the infamous Ice Cream Bombe? It works and she looks as surprised as anyone.

Final Thoughts:
I was kind of hard on Ina for the mango sorbet, but secretly I’m intrigued by homemade ice cream. Think of the flavors!!

Confession: I still make couscous from a box. Maybe it’s time to try on my own?

I guess Jack was right about French films, because they skipped the movie and played poker instead!

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic is a really simple, straightforward recipe but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to learn or practice while cooking it.

Browning Chicken – Perhaps it’s odd to call paper towels a kitchen tool, but when it comes to searing meat or browning chicken they’re your secret weapon. Removing the moisture from the chicken skin helps it turn a lovely golden color that’s really tough to achieve otherwise. Definitely don’t skip the “drying” step.

Sauteing Garlic – I’ve roasted whole heads of garlic before with excellent results, but this was a new method, more like sautéing minced garlic except with a slightly lower chance of burning it immediately. The oil is already hot, so your halfway there before the garlic even hits the pan. Keep a close watch and turn the heads frequently to prevent them from burning.

Thickening Sauce – In other Ina recipes she recommends mashing flour into butter before adding to sauces. It serves a dual purpose, thickening and enriching without lumps. (ew.) This recipe calls for spooning a cup or so of the thin sauce into a measuring cup and whisking with flour before returning to the pot. It’s a pretty neat trick because, again thickened sauce and no lumps, but this time without the added butter. I’m filing this away for those rare times when more butter isn’t what I’m going for. I’ll let you know if that ever happens…

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, definitely. I used my Le Creuset French oven (no surprise there) for both the garlic blanching and chicken cooking. I also used tongs, a slotted spoon, a mixing spoon, measuring cups and spoons, and a whisk. Paper towels and a large plate or platter will be really helpful too.

The Verdict:
I made Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic for dinner last week because the idea of chicken with all that deliciously golden garlic sounded amaaaazing. Alas, even though this recipe “turned out” the flavor was a little underwhelming. How that’s possible with all the glorious ingredients that went into the sauce I don’t know, but unfortunately the chicken was fairly bland. I’m frankly shocked that this didn’t taste better and Mike felt the same way. Sheer stubbornness might induce me to make this recipe again, maybe mashing a few cloves of garlic into the sauce? Or, cooking the garlic in the oil first and see if it permeates the chicken? If you try this and have success let me know!

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic | Image: Laura Messersmith