Poulet à l’ail is the kind of simple food that is more often cooked at home in France than served in restaurants. It is traditionally made in a deep iron pan in a seamless process, but one which actually benefits from some elements of separation. A
Joint the bird, removing the legs first before cutting through the joint to separate drumsticks from thighs and then taking off the breasts with the wings attached, before cutting through the breasts diagonally into two. This will give you
Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, coat them lightly with flour and put them skin side down in a nonstick pan over a low heat until the skin exudes fat and crisps to a golden brown.
Increase the heat, turn the pieces and briefly brown the other side before removing and reserving.
In a heavy casserole in which the chicken will fit in a single layer, put the olive oil and butter over a moderate heat. Add all but one of the garlic cloves (this may sound a lot, but after cooking they will not be too ferocious-indeed, some recipes call for 60 cloves!) and fry, stirring, until the skins start to colour. Lay the chicken on top, skin upwards, and pour in the wine. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer gently for 30–40 minutes.
Toast the slices of baguette, rub the slices of toast with the remaining garlic clove, peeled, and put them on a warmed serving plate. Check the chicken is cooked through to the bone (the juices run clear – rather than pink – when the thickest part of the flesh is pierced with a skewer or the tip of a sharp knife) before arranging it on top of the toasts. Remove the garlic with a slotted spoon and add to the chicken.
Turn up the heat and bubble down the sauce to a few syrupy spoonfuls. Add the brandy, light and flame carefully, shaking the pan. When the flames have died down, pour this on top of the chicken and finish the dish with a handful of coarsely chopped flat-leaved parsley.
© 1998 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.