There’s something magical about the way a clay cooker effortlessly transforms a few simple ingredients into a guest-worthy meal. Take this chicken, for example–it’s irresistibly moist, and the meat is infused with the flavors of garlic, lemon, and thyme. Despite what seems to be an excessive amount of garlic, it never overpowers the dish. The garlic simply mellows out becoming buttery and begging to be spread on a slice of french bread.
The recipe originated many years ago when my friend Stan was visiting. Now Stan was a huge garlic fan, and normally his visits involved a trip to The Stinking Rose. I wanted to prepare something special this time, and he mentioned having tried a roasted chicken dish with 40 cloves of garlic. My first reaction was, you’re kidding, right? But upon confirming it was no joke, I happily accepted the challenge. This was long before the Web had taken off, so after consulting the Romertopf instruction book for temp and time, I was on my merry way. While that first time was good, it’s only gotten better as the recipe evolved over the years.
What started as chicken pieces with garlic and thyme has morphed into a whole roasted chicken, first rubbed down with lemon, then surrounded with garlic and thyme. By removing the lid during the final stretch in the oven, the skin becomes crisp and golden brown. Just add a salad and a crusty loaf, and you’re all set.
First, immerse the clay cooker in water, and let it soak for about 15 minutes.
While the clay cooker is soaking, organize your ingredients.
Place the chicken in the bottom of the clay cooker, and rub down with the lemon, squeezing the juice all over as you go. Stuff the spent lemon halves in the cavity. Arrange the garlic all over and around the chicken. Sprinkle with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Stuff a few of the thyme sprigs in the cavity with the lemon, and place the remaining thyme sprigs on top. Cover, place in a COLD oven.
Set the oven temp to 475F, and cook for 50 minutes. After 50 minutes, carefully remove the lid as well as the thyme sitting on top of the chicken, and roast uncovered an additional 20-25 minutes or until done.
Serve with plenty of french bread for eating the garlic as well as for sopping up the delicious juice in the cooker. Enjoy!
- 1 whole chicken (4-4½ lbs)
- 1 lemon
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- 40 cloves garlic, whole, peeled
- Several sprigs of fresh thyme
- Soak top and bottom of a 3 quart clay cooker in water about 15 minutes; drain.
- Rinse and pat the chicken dry.
- Place the chicken in the clay cooker. Cut the lemon in half, then rub the chicken all over with the lemon, squeezing the juice out as you go. Place the spent lemon halves in the chicken cavity.
- Arrange garlic cloves on and around chicken. Sprinkle chicken/garlic with salt and pepper. Stuff two or three sprigs of thyme into the chicken cavity with the lemon. Place a few more sprigs on top of the chicken.
- Put the cover on the cooker and place in a cold oven.
- Set oven to 475F.
- Bake 50 minutes. Carefully remove cover as well as the thyme sitting on top of the chicken, and cook an additional 20-25 minutes or until chicken is tender and juices run clear when thigh is pierced.
- Serve with the roasted garlic and a loaf of french bread.
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