It is a constant challenge to make my meals meet all of my family’s food preferences: low fat, keto, soft food, yes mushrooms/no mushrooms, not to mention various allergies. Most of the dishes that I am planning for this Sunday are a bit bland, so I thought that I should make at least one with some kick to it.
Fortunately, one thing that the whole family agrees on is that there is no such thing as “too much garlic.” I buy garlic peeled by the pound so that I do not have to futz with the picky process of peeling each clove. This is a trick that I learned from the free markets of China.
Free markets are the Chinese equivalent of farmer’s markets in the U.S. When China opened to the world, the farmers were the first ones allowed to experiment with capitalism. Every free market had at least one old lady who would sit there, all day, peeling garlic and tossing it into a big pile. She would only stop when a customer would come along to buy a jin of garlic (about 1.1 pounds). Many of these women actually grew out and shaped their thumb nails, so they did not have to use a knife to peel the garlic.
When I first started visiting the free markets I was a bit of a laughing stock, because I would carefully pick out one head of unpeeled garlic. Who would buy so little at one time? That is not even one serving!
Today, I get my peeled garlic from the Asian stores and it is imported from China. It is a bit milder than Mexican or American garlic. It roasts up sweet and mellow and is perfect for this dish.
While everyone was gone, I noticed that the garden had gotten a bit overgrown. I harvested most of the thyme. Washing and stripping it from the stems, I now have several tablespoons of both European and lemon thyme in the freezer, preserved for later use. Today, it is later.
Karl’s 40 Clove Garlic Chicken with Mushrooms
1 whole chicken
40 cloves garlic, separate uses
4 Tbs. butter, softened
1 Tbs. lemon thyme
1 tsp. black pepper, cracked
½ tsp. Kosher salt
1 cup dry white wine
1 lb. button mushrooms
1. Rinse and pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Separate most of the skin from the meat, but try not to tear it.
Tip: Starting from the back neat the breast bone push your fingers under the skin. You may need to use a knife to cut the tough part where the skin directly attaches to the breast bone. Try not to nick the skin while you are doing this. Continue loosening the skin from the breast meat. On each side, slide your fingers down to the thighs and drum sticks.
2. Crush 10 cloves of garlic and mix it with the butter, thyme, pepper, and salt into a paste.
3. Spread most of the butter paste evenly on the meat under the skin.
4. Use the remaining butter paste to lightly coat the skin of the breast and legs.
5. Lightly crush 10 cloves of garlic and insert them into the cavity of the chicken and use toothpicks to close up the opening.
Tip: You are not trying to make these garlic cloves into a paste, but just to break them up just a bit.
6. Lay the chicken, breast down, in a baking pan with a two inch lip.
7. Scatter the remaining garlic cloves around the edges of the pan and add 1 cup of white wine (water or chicken broth may also be used).
Tip: Keep an eye on the liquid level in the pan. If it starts to dry out and burn, add more liquid.
8. Bake the chicken at 350º F for 30 minutes.
9. Remove the chicken from the oven and turn the chicken breast side up.
10. Take half a cup of the pan juices and pour it over the raw mushroom. Toss to coat.
11. Scatter the mushrooms around the chicken.
12. Scatter the remaining ten cloves of garlic among the mushrooms.
Tip: If the liquid level seems low add a quarter cup of white wine, water or chicken broth.
13. Return the chicken to the oven and continue baking for 40 minutes to an hour.
Tip: How long you cook the chicken depends upon its size. The easiest way to tell is to use a thermometer inserted into the thigh, when it reaches 163º F.
14. Transfer the chicken to a serving plate and scatter the mushrooms around the bird.
15. Cover the chicken with aluminum foil and let it rest for five to ten minutes.
Tip: This will bring the internal temperature of the chicken up to 165º F.
16. Transfer the pan juices to a small pot and reduce the volume by half.
Tip: If you wish, you may mix two tablesspoons of flour and one quarter cup of milk to make a slurry. Add this to the pan drippings and continue cooking for 5 minutes to make a thick gravy.
17. Remove the foil and add any juices that have collected on the serving plate to the small pot.
18. Present the bird whole with the pan juices on the side.