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I hate summertime. Loathe it. So when I see the date is August 26, I know there’s only a handful of days left until September, and even though September is technically summer—come on, we all know that it’s fall. It’s when all the fall stuff starts to happen: back to school, super-thick fashion magazines, and apple season. It’s my favorite month.
Suddenly, the wheels all start to turn again. Everyone is back from vacation, schedules become routine, and the hectic part of life reemerges. Fall is not only a change of mindset, but a change of “mouthset.” I’m done with my summertime grazing of tomatoes (the season’s only redeeming feature) and seafood. Fall requires dinnertime, and what I call “feature meals”—a sort of culinary centerpiece around which everyone can huddle for a quick hour in the evening, amid the resurrection of homework and emails and schedules. It’s the kind of meal that wafts upstairs from the oven; a magnet that calls “dinnertime” without your having too. It’s comfort food.
That is where 5 Heads of Garlic Roast Chicken comes in. I’ve always been an ardent admirer of the rotisserie chickens you find on the streets in Paris, and I always seek to achieve the same burnished gloss in my roast chickens at home. The secret is, as it always is, butter. I make a compound butter stocked with thyme and two heads of roasted garlic. Over and under the skin, it makes the chicken moist inside and crispy outside. Garlic perfumes the pan sauces, and more roasted garlic nestles in the pan instead of onions or potatoes. Serve it with a crusty country loaf, and you’re done. Bye-bye, summertime!
- 5 heads of garlic
- 2 dime-sized drizzles of olive oil
- 1 3.5-pound chicken, cleaned and patted dry (preferably free-range and organic)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus one bunch
- 3 stems fresh rosemary
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 300°F.
- Cut the top quarter of two heads of garlic off horizontally. Drizzle each head of garlic with a dime-sized amount of olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. Wrap tightly in foil. Roast for 1.5 hours. Allow to cool. Then squeeze the soft garlic flesh out of the head.
- Raise the oven heat to 425°F.
- Use your fingers to separate the skin of the chicken from the flesh, careful not to tear the skin. Peel the cloves of 1 head of garlic, and scatter them all over the chicken under the skin.
- Use a fork to mash the butter, two heads of roasted garlic cloves, and 1 tablespoon of thyme together. Salt and pepper the inside and outside of the dry chicken, and rub all over with the garlic butter.
- Cut the fourth head of garlic in half horizontally. Stuff the garlic head, rosemary, and remaining thyme into the cavity of the chicken. Place the chicken on a rack in a roasting pan.
- Separate, but do not peel, the cloves of the last head of garlic. Scatter them on the bottom of the roasting pan, and pour in the wine and stock. Cover the chicken lightly with foil.
- Roast the chicken for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, and roast another 60 minutes, until the juices run clear and the skin is crisp. Baste every 15 minutes or so.
- Remove the chicken to rest. Set the roasting pan over medium-high heat on the stove, and reduce the pan sauce to 1/2 cup. Serve alongside the roasted chicken.
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