Many years ago I discovered a recipe for Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic, a fairly traditional dish of 8-cut chicken braised with whole blanched garlic cloves. Every time I make this dish I make a few changes (including never actually counting the garlic cloves), this time though I think I finally got it just right by adding a little bacon, one of my favorite tricks.
Bacon is a diverse ingredient in which a little can go a long way, plus it can be very economical if you buy it by the slice at the meat counter in your grocery store. Just one piece can add texture and smokiness to a dish, and also adds fat so that you can cut back on or even eliminate the use of oil or butter.
With this dish, redubbed Chicken with Garlic Cloves & Bacon, it did all three. I first diced the bacon and sauteed it over medium-high heat until the bacon was crispy and the fat had been rendered (meaning the fat had turned to liquid and separated from the meat). Then I removed the bacon from the pot, leaving the fat behind, to which I added a bit of olive oil and then the chicken pieces to brown. The crispy bacon bits were then used as a garnish. It’s truly amazing how much effect you can get from just one piece of bacon in a dish meant to serve four people.
Chicken with Garlic Cloves & Bacon (serves 4)
1 head garlic, cloves separated
1 slice bacon, diced
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces (about 2 to 3 pounds)
Salt and pepper
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Begin by bringing a small pot of water to boil. Add the garlic cloves and cook for 90 seconds. Drain the garlic cloves from the water and let cool.
Set a large pot or dutch oven medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring often, until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pot and place on a paper towel, leaving the fat behind in the pot. Add the olive oil to the pot.
Season the chicken liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Carefully place half the chicken pieces skin-side down in the pot and cook until browned, about five minutes. Turn the chicken over and brown the other side. Remove the chicken from the pot and set on a plate; repeat with remaining chicken.
Peel the garlic while the chicken is browning and discard the skins.
Once all the chicken has been browned and removed from the pot, drain most of the excess oil (leave about 1/2 teaspoon), then add the garlic cloves to the pot. Cook, stirring often, until the garlic is evenly browned, about five minutes. Pour in the wine and water and stir to release any brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Return the chicken to the pot and add the thyme leaves. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Simmer for 30 minutes or until the chicken is tender and completely cooked through.
Use tongs to remove the chicken from the pot and set aside on a serving plate. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and 1 tablespoon cold water. Stir the cornstarch mixture into the broth in the pot and increase the heat to medium-high until the liquid comes to a boil and thickens. Pour the broth and garlic cloves over the chicken and garnish with reserved bacon bits.
*Serving tip: goes very well with aked sweet potato. Also, serve with the same wine used in cooking .