My secret for easy entertaining during the cold weather months

Chicken with 40 Cloves Garlic

Written by contributor Jan of Family Bites.

Sixteen years ago this week I moved to the South of France. I was 21 years old, and with the exception of a week-long vacation to Florida during the early Spring of Grade 13, my travel had been limited to a few touristy destinations across Canada.

I arrived in Nice on a crisp January morning. As I walked through the small airport looking for the man with the Chihuahua tucked into his front pocket – the only identifying trait I had for the person who was going to employ me for the next year – I had a mini panic attack as I waited in the sun soaked baggage claim.

It turns out the dashing man arrived two minutes after I did, and I spent a large part of the next year taking care of his two young sons, befriending his lovely in-laws who didn’t speak a word of English – but taught me to drive stick shift none-the-less – going to parties with some of the world’s biggest celebrities (I have a picture of Michael Jackson!), and learning how to entertain with efficiency and simplicity from the man’s wife, a cool-tempered lady who would play tennis with members of the royal family, and then come home to cook dinner for her husband and eight of his business associates.

Oh, and in case I forgot to mention it, the family I was living with made their home in Monte Carlo, Monaco, a small principality best known for glitzy casinos and Grace Kelly. But to me, it was the place I learned the most about shopping from a market, making soup from scratch, and in-home entertaining.

There were so many things I learned while living abroad, and I’m sure I could fill the pages of a book with the culinary stories and secrets I have from my time there, but the one thing that sticks in my memory the most is this: when the lady of the house entertained she never made her main course the same day she planned on serving it.

To this day, that little nugget of wisdom has proven to be incredibly valuable time and time again. It’s how I like to approach a meal I plan on serving to others, especially during the cold weather months when braises and bakes are ideal make-ahead meals designed for feeding a crowd.

When I approach an entertaining menu I usually come up with the main course first, and build on smaller additions from there. In the winter I choose something that I can make a day or two in advance in my Dutch oven, and on the day I’m expecting my guests I warm the dish slowly over low heat, fix a salad, cook a starch, if needed, and prepare a dessert. Not only is this easier, but I’ll let you in on another secret: the food almost always tastes better the next day when the flavors have really had the chance to meld together.

One of my favorite recipes to make this way is chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. I know it seems like an obscene amount of flavor to add to a dish, but I promise you that when it’s slowly cooked the pungent aroma softens and sweetens, and adds a real depth to the poultry in the simplest of ways.

This popular French fare can be made up to two days in advance, and tastes great when served over a bed of root vegetables purées, polenta, buttered egg noodles or crispy croutons. Slices of baguette are also nice for mopping up the extra sauce.

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic
5.0 from 3 reviews
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Recipe type: Main
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves/Yield: 4-6
I like to make this dish with chicken thighs, but any cut of chicken will do. If you choose to use a variety of white and dark meat, reduce the cooking time by 10 minutes.
Ingredients
  • 40 cloves of garlic, about 3 whole heads
  • 3 – 3 ½ lbs. chicken thighs, bone-in and skin-on
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons good quality olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups dry white wine
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried tarragon
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Optional: fresh chopped parsley for garnish
Instructions
  1. Separate the cloves of garlic. This can be done up to 5 days in advance and stored in a lidded container in the fridge.
  2. Thoroughly dry the chicken pieces with paper towels. Season both sides liberally with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat the butter and oil in a Dutch oven set over medium heat. Sauté the chicken skin-side down until nicely browned, about 5 minutes per side. Do this in batches if necessary. Turn the chicken over with tongs and when a batch is done transfer the chicken pieces to a plate. Continue to cook the remainder of the chicken the same way.
  4. Transfer the last of the chicken pieces to the plate, lower the heat and add the garlic to the pot, cooking it for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring often, until it’s evenly browned.
  5. Add the wine to the pot and bring the liquid to a boil, scraping the browned bits from the bottom. Return the chicken to the pot with the juices that have collected on the plate, sprinkle the tarragon over the top, and cover the pot. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked and the juices run clear.
  6. Remove the chicken to a platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Whisk together ½ cup of the sauce from the pot and the flour to make a thick paste. Return the mixture to the pot and stir it back into the sauce. Add the cream and boil for 1-3 minutes or until thick. Check the seasonings and adjust if needed. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve hot.
Notes
To make in advance, put the chicken back in the pot after the sauce has been made, cover it and allow it cool before storing in the fridge. Slowly reheat the chicken before serving.

Inevitably the chicken skin softens when it cooks in the wine. If you prefer your finished pieces to be crispy, remove the reheated chicken pieces from the pot and place them on a baking sheet. Broil for 1-2 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Transfer to a platter and pour the warm sauce over the top, or serve it on the side.

 

Tell me, do you have any secrets for easy entertaining?

About Jan

Jan Scott is a Canadian food writer, party planner, and mom of two active tween boys. She is the home cook and creative behind Family Bites, a blog inspired by the simple recipes and party ideas she’s put to the test on her family. Prior to making the transition to freelance writer, Jan spent five years as a party planner for a private catering company, but shifted to working from home in order to spend more time with her growing family.

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Comments

  1. Your recipe looks amazing, Jan! I’ve done a 40 clove whole chicken in the slow cooker before – delish! One of my entertaining secrets, and it’s been a great hit, is to scan my guests’ Pinterest boards to see if there’s something there I could make for them. It’s been really fun – it feels a bit covert – and so far no fail!
    Robin from Frugal Family Times’s last post: Recipe: Pull-Apart Monkey Bread with 5 Minute Dough

  2. That recipe looks amazing! I never thought to make a main dish ahead of time either…We don’t do a lot of entertaining in January because we are still on overload from the holidays. But, my husband’s birthday is in the middle of February, so we end up starting our entertaining again around then.
    Heather’s last post: The hat is done, now what?

  3. And just this morning I looked over at the pile of garlic that amassed when my CSA farm share was blessing me with a small head a week and wondered how I’d get them eaten up before they sprouted.

    Thanks!
    kirsten@FarmFreshFeasts’s last post: Quadruple Roasted Vegetable Mock Florentine Mock Lasagna

  4. This looks so amazingly delicious. Definitely going to keep it bookmarked for the next time I have a dinner party (and I’ll be sure to make it ahead of time, too :))!
    Stephanie @ Girl Versus Dough’s last post: sweet potato soup + browned, buttered cashews

  5. What a great recipe for these cold winter months!
    Jenny Flake’s last post: Soft Batch Style Chocolate Chip Cookies

  6. This looks wonderful. And I love that tip! I’m terrible at planning ahead, but actually made a soup yesterday that I’m planning on eating today and tomorrow. The flavors are always better after they’ve had a chance to sit.

  7. I absolutely adore loads of garlic in my dishes. 40 cloves of garlic just sounds so heavenly!!
    Julie @ Table for Two’s last post: Skinny Chicken & Broccoli Alfredo

  8. This is fantastic! I appreciate the tip and can hardly wait to try the recipe! I peeked at your blog and am looking forward to reading more.

  9. Yum! I try to make as much of a meal the day before entertaining as possible. It certainly makes the time (and clean up) more enjoyable when I don’t have to worry about checking on multiple dishes while company is arriving.
    Steph’s last post: Some Thoughts on Memorization

  10. I think that your “tactics” to make a meal in advance is very dependent on what you choose to make and many dishes and things I love to cook or bake are best served fresh and hot. But sometimes, when I cook a goulash or wienerschnitzels, I do it in the evening before the day I want to serve it, so I agree that it can really save some time and nerves too, especially if you have little children. :)

  11. Jan, what an exciting adventure! Looking forward to trying out your recipe. Off to pin! :)
    Marian (Sweetopia)’s last post: Illustrated Gingerbread Cookie Recipe

  12. I have always wanted to try making this- thank you for the delicious looking recipe!
    Heather Christo’s last post: Roasted Red Pepper, Feta and Lentil Wrap

  13. Now that is down right tasty comfort food!
    Kevin @ Closet Cooking’s last post: Baked Chipotle Sweet Potato and Black Bean Quinoa Cakes with Creamy Avocado Sauce

  14. 40 cloves of garlic??!! Wow this recipe sounds amazing ~ must try soon :)
    marla’s last post: MacKenzie-Childs: $500 Gift Card Giveaway

  15. The recipe looks yummy!

    Yes, keep entertaining simple! Be intentional about inviting others over, because it’s easy to just hunker down and not do it. :)
    Sandy @ RE’s last post: Enjoying Life with Layered Enchilada Bake Recipe

  16. This recipe looks delicious, I’ve never tried 40 clove chicken- I loooooove local garlic and get my supply from a local CSA and my sister who grows it. While I get an impressive stash from ‘my sources’, I often hoard them for fear of running out before the next season. But this looks too tempting to miss out on.
    I also really enjoyed your story- what a great experience and excellent entertaining tip!
    I make ahead when I entertain also, but often taster style buffet- tapas, etc. I can make ahead hummus, baba ghanoush, roasted red peppers and such with a crock of soup or chili with espresso cups to drink it from. I also serve taster sized dessert that can be stored in the freezer in 125mL mason jars & baked from frozen.
    In summer, casual BBQ- my husband can tend to the meat and I just take care of sides/salads.

  17. I follow the ‘make it ahead of time’ mantra as well when entertaining. And nothing tastes better than a braised the day after. Yum! :)
    Melissa@bakingfortheboys’s last post: wholesome bee-lunch and a delicious quinoa recipe

  18. This is such a fantastic post! Making the main course the day before is such a great idea. There is always a to-do list a mile long on “entertaining day” and it would be so helpful to have the main dish already check off.
    Cookin Canuck’s last post: Chopped Kale Salad Recipe with Pomegranate & Avocado

  19. can you believe I’ve never made 40 clove chicken!! I’m so doing it this weekend!
    Gaby’s last post: Salted Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

  20. too yummy! I love the idea of cooking ahead for guests…I’m going to have to rethink things
    priest’s wife (@byzcathwife)’s last post: First World Problems for Priest’s Wife: Mold, Asbestos, Termites, Bad Pipes

  21. Your time in Monaco sounds so interesting, I would love to hear other tips and tidbits you picked up.
    But this one? It’s brilliant. Love it. And that recipe is perfect for these winter months. I’ve wanted to try it for awhile, thanks for the nudge!

  22. So my brain just exploded. Of course, I know that food cooked in a Dutch/French oven almost always tastes better the next day. Of course I know that it’s nuts to try and cook the main dish while trying to put make up on, make sure the mashed potatoes aren’t lumpy, and that the pie isn’t browning too much. Why I never thought to add that simple little mantra to my entertaining ‘how-tos’… I guess this is why they call it an ‘ah-ha’ moment, right? Oh, and I have chicken thighs in the fridge RIGHT now. This is dinner on Friday night.
    Amber | Bluebonnets & Brownies’s last post: Homemade Grenadine Syrup

  23. garlic cloves peeled?

  24. WOW – I went to Sam’s and have a TON of garlic and wondered how to use it all, but it was so cheap I couldn’t resist. Now I know!! AND…we’re having people over next week so this is perfect. :)) Thanks so much!
    Lana
    PS I like to focus on making the dessert the most awesome part cause it’s the last thing they have, so I’ll always go simple for entertaining meals like spaghetti, crockpot soup or baked macaroni, but the dessert will be a wonderful homemade pastry or a pie with a homemade crust with ice cream. Mmm :)
    Lana Wilkens’s last post: multi-tasking: beauty’s enemy

  25. Quick Question-I have always wanted to try this recipe, but what would be a good substitute for Tarragon in this? My husband hates it. I would love to try this but really need an alternative. I am not much of an intuitive meal maker, I pretty much always follow the recipe to the “T”! Any advice would be apprecaited.

  26. I absolutely love this post. What a simple idea, and yet, one I never thought of. I’m going to try it out next time we have company over. I need to learn to be a stress-free hostess :) And this recipe sounds wonderful!
    megan @ whatmegansmaking’s last post: Homemade Pretzel Dogs

  27. I made this yesterday and it was delicious. :) First time trying chicken and garlic for my 11-month-old… she’s a fan! I used thyme instead of tarragon and ended up with 28 cloves of garlic instead of 40 ;) but it was still very flavorful. Thanks for such a great recipe!
    Claire @ Lemon Jelly Cake’s last post: Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

  28. Leah Leitch says:

    Great tip, I tend to get a bit nervous when having company so one of my survival skills is making things ahead. Will definitely try this recipe, thanks so much! Also please get working on that book full of your wonderful stories from Monaco! Can’t wait.

  29. What a fascinating family to live with – I second the above comment on writing a book on your experiences in Monaco. You’ve got another reader for it here!
    Casey@Good. Food. Stories.’s last post: Classic Snacks Made from Scratch: The Book Tour

  30. I just ate this for dinner and THE SAUCE!!!! Amazing, adding this to my Sunday Dinner rotation.
    Mary Kay’s last post: White Chicken Chili

  31. I have a question. Can you recommend a substitute for the white wine in your recipe?

    Thank you!

  32. Hi, I would like to try this on a larger scale. How would you recommend for a group of 40? I’m looking at about 15 lbs of boneless skinless breast. Still do-able? I appreciate any input!

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