This rustic-style dish is popular in Provençe and other southern regions of France. Traditionally, the French farmer’s wife would be able to procure these ingredients easily from her basse-cour (farm yard), where she kept chicken, rabbits and ducks, and her jardin potager (kitchen garden), where she would grow vegetables. This classic is known to incite differences of opinion – jointing, browning chicken and peeling garlic being the main points of contention. Whichever way you approach it though, the simple marriage of chicken and garlic, when slow-cooked together, becomes extraordinary. While the quantity of garlic may seem excessive, don’t be alarmed. Forty cloves of garlic is roughly equal to three bulbs. When unpeeled garlic is roasted, the flavour mellows and develops a caramelised sweetness, as well as a soft texture.
- 1.8 kg whole chicken
- 8 thyme sprigs
- 4 flat-leaf parsley stalks
- 60 ml (¼ cup) olive oil
- 1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced
- 5 garlic bulbs, 2 bulbs halved widthwise, 3 bulbs cloves separated, unpeeled
- 125 ml (½ cup) dry white wine
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Drink match 2010 Cave de Lugny Bourgogne Blanc, Burgundy, France ($20)
Pat chicken skin and cavity dry with paper towel, then season with salt and pepper. Place 4 thyme sprigs and 4 parsley stalks in the cavity, then tie the legs together with kitchen string.
Preheat oven to 180 °C. Heat oil in a large, deep ovenproof and flameproof pan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium, then add chicken and cook, turning frequently, for 10 minutes or until dark golden all over. Transfer chicken to a large plate and set aside.
Add leek, halved garlic bulbs and garlic cloves to pan, increase heat to high and cook for 3 minutes or until garlic cloves are golden. Return chicken to pan with any juices. Pour wine around chicken and scatter with remaining thyme sprigs. Cover tightly with lid or foil and transfer to oven. Bake for 1½ hours or until chicken is cooked through and juices run clear when the thickest part of the thigh is pierced. Transfer chicken to a large plate and keep warm. Return pan to oven and cook uncovered for a further 20 minutes or until garlic is soft and caramelised.
Photography Alan Benson