There is a traditional regional dish called “poulet aux quarante gousses d’ail” – chicken with forty cloves of garlic – which often gets prepared with a sprinkling of dried herbs such as thyme, laurel leaves and a stick of celery. Sometimes the blood of the chicken and/or red wine are added.
I prefer it pure with garlic and just a hint of dried herbs.
You put the chicken in a covered dish in the oven, some go as far as sealing it hermetically with a paste made of water and flour, and when you open the dish there is a wonderful aroma while the raw garlic has turned into a paste.
There are variations on the theme with a leg of lamb, guinea fowl or pork.
But why the forty? Apparently the figure 40 often stands for a large number in the Bible and in local speak became to mean “plenty” – chicken with plenty of garlic. It is also used in the tale of “Ali Baba and the forty thieves”.
I this vein I recreated the dish, because if you are only two people then twenty cloves of garlic per person is more than you need – even though they are delicious.
I used a chicken of 1.2 kilos. If you use a larger bird for more people, you can increase the number of cloves. The garlic cloves are not peeled and I use by preference the pink garlic of Lautrec.
- One chicken ready to cook
- Two heads of garlic
- Mixed herbs tied up in a fine cheese cloth
- 250 ml of olive oil
- Celery salt
- Red pepper
- 25 ml of lemon juice
- Clean the chicken inside out, remove remaining bits of feather, wash and dry with paper towels. Preheat oven to 200 °C.
- Take an oven dish – I used a Pyrex oval dish with a well-fitting lid – and pour in the olive oil.
- Place the chicken in the dish.
- Pull the cloves from the heads of garlic and disperse them around in the dish.
- Put the herbs in their cloth in the dish. Squirt the lemon juice over the bird.
- Add some celery salt and red pepper (or any other pepper) over the bird.
- Close the dish. You can, if needed, seal it with a paste of water and flour.
- Place the dish in the oven and cook for about 90 minutes for a bird of up to 1.5 kilos, adding 10 minutes for every 200 grammes extra.
- Let it cool down a bit outside the oven, bring to the table and remove the lid in the presence of your guests so that they can smell the aroma.
- You can spread the garlic paste on bits of bread.