French Garlic Chicken

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French garlic chicken is one of the great farmhouse dishes of that country — yes, this is that 40 clove garlic chicken recipe you may have heard of. The long, slow braising process mellows all that garlic into something warm, soft and cozy. 

40 clove garlic chicken on a plate
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

And even better from my perspective? You can absolutely use pheasant, rabbit or other white meats in this recipe. One of the cool things about pheasants is that they are so close to chickens that you can interchange recipes quite often. You only need to make a few tweaks to make French garlic chicken with pheasant.

Yes, there are two whole heads of garlic in this recipe. Don’t worry, it all gets slow-roasted together, which mellows the garlic out considerably. Think roasted garlic spread over toasty bread, and you get the idea.

The great American chef James Beard is credited with bringing 40 clove garlic chicken to the attention of the country, back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is of Provencal origin, in southern France, and is super easy to make.

At its essence, this dish is a slow-cooked mix of garlic, chicken pieces, olive oil, a little white wine or vermouth, plus onions, herbs and a few optional vegetables. It’s a one-pot dish, a homey dinner.

TIP: Since this is cooked slow and low, you will want to skip breasts here; they’ll get too dry.

I normally use skin-on pheasant thighs; you can use skinless thighs, too. If you are using store-bought chicken, you can use drumsticks, but skip this if you are using pheasant because the sinews in pheasant legs are too tough. Rabbit hind legs are excellent for this, too.

Closeup of 40 clove garlic chicken
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Other than the traditional chicken legs or the pheasant thighs, you can use rabbit, whole quail, halved Cornish game hens, chukars or Hungarian partridges, or even whole squirrels.

OK, I can hear some of you saying, “Hank, French garlic chicken sounds amazing, but no way am I peeling 40-plus cloves of garlic.” Yes you are, and here’s how. Watch this video. It takes like 20 seconds. Or you can cheat and use pre-peeled garlic.

After that, you will want some greenery, like tarragon and parsley or somesuch. Basil’s nice in summer, lovage, thyme and savory all work well.

You should know that the original recipe for French garlic chicken does not, inexplicably, crisp the skin. I do. I do this by searing just the skin of the thighs in olive oil, then, at the end, uncovering the casserole dish for maybe 20 minutes to re-crisp it. Looks and works great.

You’ll want some sturdy bread to go with this, as it’s saucy and you want bread to sop it all up with. Potatoes are another good option.

Looking for other great recipes for chicken or pheasant thighs? Try my braised pheasant with root vegetables, or my pheasant legs with mushrooms recipe

Closeup of 40 clove garlic chicken
5 from 18 votes

French Garlic Chicken

See my notes above for using pheasant or other white meats. Once made, this will keep in the fridge for a few days. Reheat it slowly in a 350°F oven until warmed through.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: French
Servings: 6 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours

Ingredients 

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 10 to 16 chicken or pheasant thighs, see above for substitutions
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 cups white or yellow onion, sliced from root to tip
  • 2 heads garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon (optional)
  • 1 cup white vermouth or white wine

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or other large, lidded pot over medium-high heat. Sear the skin of the pheasant breasts until nicely browned. If you are using skinless thighs, skip this step. Remove the pheasant pieces as they brown.
  • Add the celery and onion and sauté, stirring often, until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the garlic cloves, herbs, salt and black pepper and mix well. Pour in the vermouth. Nestle the pheasant thighs into this, skin side up and above the level of the liquid.
  • Cover the pot and bake in the oven 1 hour. Uncover the pot and continue to cook until the the top of the meat is browned, typically 20 minutes. Serve with lots of good bread.

Notes

In general, you’ll want about 3 pounds of bone-in white meat for this recipe, from chicken to rabbits to partridges, Cornish hens, or grouse. 

Keys to Success

  • I definitely recommend skin-on thighs for this recipe, since the crispy skin at the end is one of the stars of the show. 
  • If you have a choice, find hardneck garlic; it has fewer, larger cloves that are more fun to eat than those little internal cloves of softneck garlic. 
  • The wine you use in the recipe should be what you drink. A white Cotes du Rhone or a white Bordeaux would be nice here. 

Nutrition

Calories: 460kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 16g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 162mg | Sodium: 182mg | Potassium: 764mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 521IU | Vitamin C: 16mg | Calcium: 118mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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21 Comments

  1. Third time on this recipe, always delicious. The only variation I use is the white wine I have on hand.

  2. Made this for the second time with chicken. Amazing!

    When I uncovered the dish to crisp the skin I splashed a bit more wine on the veggies. Outstanding!

    I look forward to plucking the pheasant thighs in the future to make this with them. (Full disclosure, Aldi had peeled garlic cloves and I used a full package – easy and yummy!)

  3. Saw the recipe, had to try it. Will be on the rotation but probably always with chicken or pheasant – will try with rabbit but the crisp chicken skin hands down is great. Next time may try to add an extra head of garlic, a few more onions and a bit more wine.

  4. Made this last night. Excellent! The crisp skin was extra special.

    The only issue was peeling the garlic ?. I’m in your old part of the world and had what must have been garlic fresh from Gilroy and removing the skin was like removing paint. The shaking in the bowl trick didn’t work, so had to roll each clove in one of those rubber tube tools. Still worth the effort.

  5. Thanks for this. What a hit! Sadly, my supply of skin-on pheasant is inadequate for how often this dish deserves to be served, so chicken thighs it will be.

  6. With Spring just about the corner…..How would this be with some ramp bulbs replacing the garlic? …..and if you tossed some mushrooms tucked under the chicken, say some early morels…..and if you served it on some savory wild rice pancakes with ramp greens baked in… oh….and some fiddleheads to green up the plate.

    Would squirrel or frog legs work for with this?

    1. Dave: All that sounds fantastic! Definitely do it. I’d do it with squirrel. Not sure about frog legs, but worth a try.

  7. Haven’t tried this yet, but am very excited. Question: In your notes you say you need 3 lbs of bone-in white meat for this recipe; did you mean to say, “dark meat” (as your restaurant calls for chicken/pheasant thighs)?

  8. Just another thing ive seen on here and tried. Absolutely fantastic. I dont really use recipes in most cases, but more than anything, the ideas and tips strewn throughout introducing dishes and the writing are exponentially helpful. Thankyou.

  9. Could not find recipe for Pheasant cakes. You referenced them in Confit Pheasant Sous vide recipe could you send it to
    Me

      1. I would actually rate this recipe four and a half stars, but since I have to choose between 4 and 5 I’ll give it a 5. A few comments. First, even though I salted and peppered the chicken as I was searing it in the olive oil, and even though I salted and peppered the onions and celery, it still needed a bit more salt. Second, do not leave out the tarragon! It’s only March so there wasn’t any in my garden and I was too lazy to run to the store for fresh, so I used a few good shakes of dried tarragon. Even if it is dried, tarragon combined with vermouth and garlic is magical. Third, I think you can cut down on the amount of olive oil a little bit if you want to save calories. I’m going to serve the leftovers on top of noodles which I think will be dynamite.

  10. Hey Hank Shaw, my name is Phil Schmidt and I just accidentally discovered your site while doing research on fermented pepper sauce. You helped me clarify my questions on that issue. Thanks! You interested me enough to look further and, right off the bat, you posted the 40 clove chicken recipe which sounds very fine and could rival my best chicken recipe, given me by my very good friends wife. I am a hunter/ gatherer/ gardener/ designer/ builder/ artist/ observer and admirer of precious life. I want to praise you for your energy and work. Good luck going forward. I could probably send many copies of your Buck, Buck, Moose to many of my good hunting/ fishing Gems.

  11. this is a really favourite of mine, i know it as Spanish chicken. which ever side of the pyrenees your bread is buttered its delicious.