Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Always Trust Your Gut

When a recipe for "Chicken and Garlic Stew," better known as Chicken With 40 Cloves of Garlic, tells you to simply add all the ingredients to your dutch oven and start simmering, you've got to know that something is deathly wrong.

But I was a dumbass and trusted the recipe in Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything instead of trusting my gut. I've produced quite a few
recipes from this no nonsense cookbook with success, so I thought "Why not?"

This "supposed braising" recipe required no browning, no deglazing, and asked for only a half cup of liquid to support a 3 lb. chicken. But since Mark seems to know what he's talkin' 'bout, I followed, mixing the cut up chicken, olive oil, parsley, cinnamon, salt, pepper, forty or so cloves of unpeeled garlic, and about 3/4 cup of liquid (oooh, I diverged!) to the pot.

When I lifted the cover, what I saw was a nasty boiled/steamed chicken dinner. I left the cover off and tried to reduce it to get a little browning going, but the chicken remained tasteless and lifeless and I am now kicking myself in the ass. I will say that the softened garlic cloves were good, and I was able to at least make a meal out of spreading them on pieces of crusty baguette.

I am not posting the recipe for obvious reasons!


rick james said...

man, that's just wrong... that recipe is giving "braising" a bad name... braising is all that is good in the cooking world, we can't tarnish it.. ;)

sam said...

eeewww. and i live and die by that book, it is my cooking bib-le.

atleast you got some yummy chicken garlic bread out if it. mmmmmmm chicken garlic.

Kirk said...

Yuck - so this was actually Garlic flavored(or not) with Chicken....

Jessica said...

Even tho I'm a fan of his personality, I've never really jumped on the Bittman bandwagon. Out of all my "basics" books I'll always refer to Joy of Cooking and Cook's Illustrated's The New Best Recipe before I crack HtCE.

Jeni said...

Girl...when I saw that picture I thought you dissected a cat! Well, at least you got some chicken flavored garlic...and cat guts. :)

Daily Gluttony said...


I don't even think this recipe qualifies as "braising". It's more like "Fuck up"


Mmm, chicken garlic reminds me of...lunch at Skafs. *sniff*


Right on, man...


I've always been curious about The Best New Recipe; looks like after this chicken episode, I'll have to give it a spin


How'd you know??? LOL!

BoLA said...

One word. Yuck. ;P Yes...ALWAYS trust your gut! For sure! Good effort though! High five for that!!! ;)

The Survival Gourmet said...

I've never cooked a recipe sraight from a book that turned out well. It seems I always have to "fix it" a little bit. Trust your instincts and go with that.

Now baking is a different story...

Daily Gluttony said...


Aww, high five back!

Survival Gourmet,

I usually try to "fix" 'em, too, but sometimes I just get lazy!

condiment said...

You can say a lot of things about Bittman - and I have, believe me - but his recipes usually work pretty well. If the REASON they work is that he's ripped them off from a more interesting chef than himself, well there you go. He does not, to put it mildly, make up his recipes.

The Bearn region of France (which I suspect because of the cinnamon, which is uncommon in the rest of France) is home to quite a few braised chicken recipes that do not necessarily include preliminary browning, but they are usually cooked with something like three pounds of onions or something - putting off an awful lot of liquid, making it more of a stew than a braise.

Elizabeth David's version of the dish is totally vague on the question of whether or not to brown. James Beard's, the famous one, calls for browning. The version in Pat Wells' bistro book calls for browning. Paula Wolfert's variants on the dish call for careful browning. And me - I brown too.

But I can't figure out the provenance of this one. The classic

Anonymous said...

Inspired by your post, I've made three different versions of this dish this week. It used to be a favorite back when I was in college, but I hadn't made it in a while.

Anyway, I think the problem with Bittman's recipe wasn't that he used too little liquid, but too much. The Olney recipe, the most successful, calls for 2/3 cup of olive oil, a teaspoonful of herbs de Provence, salt, pepper, and a minimal bouquet garni, all sealed in a casserole and baked at 350 for about two hours. The dish (which I made with all thighs, since they seemed to react the best in previous attempts) was pretty spectacular: crusty, luscious, falling off the bone, and incredibly, deeply flavored with the garlic and herbs. No browning, no searing.

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