When I was a kid, we went to my Gran’s every year for Christmas without fail. My neighbors had a leisurely Christmas, in their jammies, playing with their new toys. I was jealous of this. I liked hanging with my family, but longed to spend the day at home.

Sometime about 1992 or so, I don’t remember the exact year, when I was about 19 and responsible for getting myself to Gran’s, it snowed something fierce. So, I opted to stay home. I had a lovely time playing in the snow with my BFF who lived next door.

When it came time for dinner, I decided to get fancy. I had heard of “40 Garlic Chicken” but never had it. I didn’t have a recipe and this was pre-internet, so I decided to just wing it.

I took one lone chicken breast and covered it with 40 cloves worth of granulated garlic, a whole bottle. Then I baked it. This was the most horrible thing to ever pass my lips. I took one bite and threw it in the trash.

Here we are, however many years later and I decided to give it another shot. Now I have the endless resource of the intarwebs to turn to. I also now know about fresh garlic. So, I searched out something that sounded good. I ended up on Bon Appetit’s Chicken with lots of garlic. It doesn’t say 40 garlic in the title, but it called for 4 whole heads, so that fit the bill. I made this for Christmas dinner this year with mashed potatoes and green beans.


4 chicken legs (thigh and drumstick; about 2½ lb. total)
Kosher salt
4 heads of garlic, halved crosswise
1 lemon, thinly sliced into rounds, seeds removed
1 red chile (such as Fresno), quartered lengthwise, seeds removed if desired
3 bay leaves or 5 sprigs thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Country-style bread, toasted (for serving)

Preheat oven to 325°. Place chicken in an 13×9″ baking dish and season generously all over with salt. Add garlic, lemon, chile, bay leaves, and a few grinds of pepper. Pour in oil and toss everything to coat. Turn garlic heads cut side down so they are in contact with the baking dish (this will help them brown).

Roast chicken, rotating pan once, until meat is almost falling off the bone, 75–90 minutes. Let chicken cool in pan 10 minutes, then serve with bread.

I feel I’ve been redeemed. This was delicious! The sweet husband loved it. I loved it. An all around winner. I may make it again and not wait almost 30 years for my next try.

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