Not too long ago, I went to visit a friend and when I walked into her house I had to take a deep breath to savour the aromas coming from the kitchen. I couldn't keep my stomach from growling; her house smelled divine. Naturally, I had to follow my nose and take a peek in the oven.
Her British-born mother was roasting a chicken for Sunday supper. Not such an unusual occurrence, in and of itself. But when I looked at the chicken, I saw that the breast was blanketed in bacon, adding to the intoxicating roasting smells, not to mention a good deal of flavour to both the meat and the drippings.
I knew that I had to take this English farmhouse tip home. My friend's mother brushed off my questions with a roll of the eyes, suggesting this really was the only way to roast a chicken.
Of course, I wrap many things in bacon and it has saved many an average meal for me. But I have never wrapped a whole chicken. The thing that I loved the most about her technique was that the chicken was decidedly not wrapped; the bacon was almost haphazardly placed on top of the chicken like a blanket. It was there to aid in the cooking process, not necessarily be part of the finished dish.
I decided to add this technique to my recipe for chicken with 40 cloves of garlic and shallots. I already had added shallots to the traditional 40 cloves recipe to make the chicken even more fragrant and delicious. The beauty of this recipe is that the garlic and the shallots cook in the fat that is rendered out as the chicken — and now bacon — roasts.
This recipe is one of my winter comfort foods and I always serve it with lots of fresh crusty bread and sweet butter to spread with the roasted garlic, as well as a green vegetable — usually a quick saute of baby spinach.
ROASTED CHICKEN WITH 40 CLOVES OF GARLIC AND A BACON BLANKET
Start to finish: 2 hours
2 heads garlic, separated into cloves, but not peeled
8 medium shallots, not peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
5-pound whole chicken
8 ounces thick-cut bacon
Ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 500 F.
In a large Dutch oven, toss the garlic cloves and shallots with the olive oil. Add the wine, then sprinkle with salt. Set aside.
Use paper towels to pat dry the chicken, then season it with salt, including inside the cavity. Set the chicken, breast side up, on top of the garlic and shallots. Drape the strips of bacon over the chicken. Set the pan in the oven and cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours (time will vary depending on how evenly your oven heats), or until the bacon is crisped and brown and the thighs read 170 F.
Remove the chicken from the pan and set it on a platter. Season the chicken with black pepper, then cover it with foil and let it rest 10 to 15 minutes before carving. Meanwhile, slip the garlic cloves and shallots from their skins and serve with the chicken (they also are good spread on toasted bread).
Nutrition information per serving: 630 calories; 400 calories from fat (63 per cent of total calories); 44 g fat (13 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 160 mg cholesterol; 14 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 41 g protein; 850 mg sodium.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Elizabeth Karmel is a grilling and Southern foods expert and executive chef at Hill Country Barbecue Market restaurants in New York and Washington, as well as Hill Country Chicken in New York. She is the author of three cookbooks, including "Soaked, Slathered and Seasoned."
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