Thursday, October 04, 2007

Chicken, garlic and herbs (with a few extras)

It was N's birthday yesterday . We'd all forgotten it was his birthday and we quickly organised a celebration birthday dinner. Nigel Slater, whose recipe it is, describes this as a 'simple supper'. It is very simple, but it is also very, very good. Y and I made the cream version. I might try and double on the sauce next time because it was so delicious.


chicken, garlic & herbsfree-range chicken – either a small bird, jointed by the butcher, or 2 chicken pieces per person, skin and bones to remain in place
olive oil
butter – a thick slice
garlic – 6 large, sweet cloves
herbs – a small bunch of parsley, plus tarragon, thyme or chervil
wine – a large glass of white wine or dry vermouth


1. Rub the chicken all over with a little oil and some black pepper. In a large pan – it can be high-sided or shallow but it must have a lid – warm enough olive oil to give a small puddle at the bottom, then add the butter. Once the butter starts to froth, put in the chicken pieces and keep the heat moderately high while they colour. A pale and relatively even gold is what you're after.

2. Meanwhile, put the whole unpeeled garlic cloves on a board and, with the flat blade of a knife, squash them so that they flatten but remain fairly intact. Throw them in with the chicken.

3. Turn down the heat so that the fat under the chicken is gently fizzing, then add a little sea salt, cover the pan with a lid and leave to cook over a low to moderate heat. The time it takes to cook will depend on the thickness of your chicken joints, but you should expect them to need about 40 minutes. You'll have to turn them during cooking so that they colour on all sides.

4. While this is happening, pluck the leaves from the herbs and chop them roughly. Transfer the chicken to a serving dish or warm plates, then fish out the garlic (although the garlic has done its work, it may be sweet and tender and is worth adding to the plate, though the skin should be discarded at some point).

5. Tip most of the fat from the pan – what you're after is the golden, caramelised juice stuck to the bottom – then turn up the heat, pour in the wine and add the herbs and let it all bubble. Scrape away any stuck bits in the pan, encouraging them to dissolve into the wine with a wooden spoon. Let it bubble away for a minute or two until you have a thin liquor. It should be pale and interesting.

6. Now taste the juice for seasoning – it may need salt, pepper or a squeeze of lemon juice – and spoon it over the chicken.

And more

  • A buttery finish. Once the wine has bubbled down, whisk in a thick slice of butter (about 50g), cut into tiny cubes. Taste and spoon over the chicken.
  • Or a creamy one. Once you've removed the chicken from the pan and poured in your wine or vermouth, let it bubble away until you have only half of it left, then add about half as much cream. As it continues to bubble, stir in chopped parsely and slightly less chopped tarragon. Finish with salt, black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.
  • Lamb with garlic and lemon. What works for a chicken thigh will also work for a lamb chop. Try the original idea but with chump chops and adding parsely and mint. Finish with a squeeze of lemon.
  • Pork chops with apple and cream. Rib chops, with their generous marbling of integral fat (rather than a loin chop with its great wodge of fat running alongside the lean meat), are delectable cooked this way. You should let them colour well before turning down the heat, adding an apple or two, peeled and cut into small cubes, and letting it colour with the pork. When it's time to take out the meat, leave the apple be, then add the wine and let it simmer down a bit before pouring in a small pot of double cream. Stir, taking the sediment from the pan with you and dissolving it into the cream with your wooden spoon. Herbs are not really needed here, though the garlic is. I once crushed a few juniper berries, adding them after the meat and fruit had browned, to great effect.