Twenty Clove Chicken with Castelvetrano Olives

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There’s something deliciously rustic about preparing a whole chicken with twenty cloves of garlic.  If it were winter and I felt like I needed the extra warmth I would have prepared this dish in a dutch oven and let it roast all afternoon.  But alas, it’s summertime and thus it was better suited for the slow cooker.  I absolutely adore recipes where you chop everything up, put it all into one pot and let it cook for hours.  It feels so effortless and after making the labor-intensive Summer Minestrone with Pesto earlier this weekend I needed the break,

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This recipes uses 20 peeled cloves of garlic.  Twenty.  It could be worse, I’ve seen whole chicken recipes that call for 40!  A trick that I learned from Ina Garten–boiling the whole garlic cloves for a quick minute makes them easier to peel.

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The skins come right off.  The garlic is still raw and full of flavor as long as you don’t boil them for too long.

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This is the first time I’ve cut up a whole chicken myself.  You can buy the chicken already in pieces or follow Mark Bittman’s instructions.  I am forever grateful for his book How to Cook Everything which walked me through the process.  (If you buy only a single cookbook in your life, buy that one!  It’s invaluable!  I’ve used it for everything from a Thanksgiving turkey to banana pudding!)  I prefer to buy a whole chicken because it’s usually less expensive and at our local grocery store I am able to purchase organic, pasture-raised chickens.  So you get better quality for less money!  I didn’t photograph the process because my hands were not clean enough to hold my camera… but Mark Bittman is a much better teacher, anyway!

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Finally, while you can substitute kalamata olives, I whole-hearted recommend the brillantly green Castelvetrano olives.  Their flavor is subtle, yet fragrant and the color looks beautiful with the thyme and the lemons.  These olives are my latest pregnancy craving.  I went through two jars this weekend alone.

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Twenty Clove Chicken with Castelvetrano Olives

  • 20 cloves garlic (approx. 3 small heads), separated and peeled (instructions below)
  • 1 whole chicken, cut into eight pieces
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 leek, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 small onion, sliced into circles or half moons
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 whole lemon, sliced into rounds (including ends)
  • 1/2 cup Castelvetrano olives
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  1. Bring a pot of water to a rapid boil.  Separate un-peeled whole garlic cloves.
  2. Place cloves into boiling water and allow to boil for 1 minute.
  3. Strain garlic cloves and run cold water over them.  When cool to the touch, peel off skins.  Set aside.
  4. Sprinkle chicken pieces with coarse salt and pepper.  Allow to sit for a few minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil into bottom of crock pot.
  6. Arrange leek and onion slices on the bottom and top with a few sprigs of fresh thyme.
  7. Layer the chicken thighs with 1/3 of the cloves of garlic on top, then top with 1/3 of the lemon slices, 1/3 olives and a few more sprigs of thyme.
  8. Then place the wings on top and layer the next 1/3 of garlic, lemon slices, olives and thyme.
  9. Top with the chicken breasts and add remaining garlic, lemon, olives and thyme on top.
  10. Drizzle in remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and honey on top.
  11. Cook in slow cooker over high heat for 1 hour to brown the chicken.
  12. Reduce to low heat and cook for several more hours until the chicken is thoroughly cooked and falling off the bone.
  13. Serve over brown rice with a glass of your favorite white wine!

Makes 4-6 servings.

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