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Do you Dread Leftovers?

Updated on June 27, 2012
Forty Cloves of Garlic Chicken
Forty Cloves of Garlic Chicken | Source

Base recipe

Several years ago I came across The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten, and loved her no-nonsense approach to entertaining. I bought several of her cookbooks and began experimenting with her recipes.In the one called Barefoot in Paris she had a recipe called "Forty Cloves of Garlic Chicken". The picture looked good and comforting, it was winter and cold outside, and I had the ingredients already in the house so I dove in.

Frankly, I thought it was a misprint when it said 40 cloves of garlic. I could not imagine that you could use that much garlic with chicken and not have it be overpowered by the garlic. However, my rule is always make it the way the recipe says the first time and then note what you would change and tweak it the second time if you basically like it. I took heed of the warning to carefully and slowly cook the garlic so as not to over brown or burn the garlic and was thrilled with the results. The garlic and wine mixed with the chicken and thyme made a heavenly "gravy" of sorts that was soul-satisfying. However, there was so much of it leftover that I was hard-pressed to figure out what to do with it so that I wouldn't be eating leftovers for a week.

Using the base recipe below, I re-purposed my leftovers into dishes that transformed them into things that I couldn't fairly call "leftover" anything.

Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic

Copyright 2004, Barefoot in Paris, All Rights Reserved

Prep Time:35 minInactive Prep Time:--Cook Time:1 hr 5 minLevel:IntermediateServes:6 servings


  • 3 whole heads garlic, about 40 cloves
  • 2 (3 1/2-pound) chickens, cut into eighths
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons Cognac, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream


Separate the cloves of garlic and drop them into a pot of boiling water for 60 seconds. Drain the garlic andpeel. Set aside.

Dry the chicken with paper towels. Season liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat the butter and oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. In batches, saute the chicken in the fat, skin side down first, until nicely browned, about 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Turn with tongs or a spatula; you don't want to pierce the skin with a fork. If the fat is burning, turn the heat down to medium. When a batch is done, transfer it to a plate and continue to saute all the chicken in batches. Remove the last chicken to the plate and add all of the garlic to the pot. Lower the heat and saute for 5 to 10 minutes, turning often, until evenly browned. Add 2 tablespoons of the Cognac and the wine, return to a boil, and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken to the pot with the juices and sprinkle with the thyme leaves. Cover and simmer over the lowest heat for about 30 minutes, until all the chicken is done.

Remove the chicken to a platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of the sauce and the flour and then whisk it back into the sauce in the pot. Raise the heat, add the remaining tablespoon of Cognac and the cream, and boil for 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper, to taste; it should be very flavorful because chicken tends to be bland. Pour the sauce and the garlic over the chicken and serve hot.

I've made this several times for dinner parties, and it is the perfect dinner party meal since it cooks all in one dish and your sides are really necessarily simple (good quality dinner rolls, rice or mashed potatoes, green peas with just a hint of lemon zest). But when you're not having company, what to do with all that chicken and liquid-y goodness?

Transformation #1 - Chicken Pot Pie

The gravy portion of this base recipe was so delightful, that it occurred to me that the leftovers would make a wonderful adult variation on Chicken Pot Pie. I used homemade Puff Pastry i had in my freezer, but you can use store-bought if you are not brave enough to make your own, for this recipe.

Remove the pot with the leftovers in it from the refrigerator and carefully peel all of the meat from the chicken bones. It is imperative to avoid those fine, sharp little bones found in the legs. Chop into about a 2 inch dice and set aside in a bowl. Using either a casserole dish or individual oven-proof dishes, carefully put the puff pastry dough along the bottom and sides of the dish. Pierce with a fork as you would if you were cooking a pie.

Then bake the pastry in an oven pre-heated to 425 degrees until it just starts to turn golden. Remove from the oven, set aside and let it cool completely.

Take sweet onion, carrots and Yukon Gold potatoes (I use the Yukon Gold because they cook quickly and hold their shape in liquid), and dice into 1.5-2 inch cubes. I use about 1 c each, but adjust it to your personal taste and the amount of leftover sauce/gravy you have. Add the onions and carrots to the leftover gravy/sauce mixture and gently heat on the stove top until the carrots just start to soften then add the diced potatoes and cook until they too just start to soften. Don't let the carrots and potatoes get all the way done as they will be too soft once the pot pie is finished cooking. At the last minute add about 2/3 cup of sliced button mushrooms, and 1 cup of frozen sweet peas.

Stir everything together and remove from the heat. Add in the diced chicken you had. previously set aside. Your mixture should be thick with veggies and chicken with a little of the gravy sticking to everything. If it is too thick, thin with a tiny bit of chicken stock but don't let it get too thin or it will ruin the crispness of the pot pie crust. Let it cool to room temperature before adding to the pastry mix.

Spoon the cooled mixture into the cooled pastry bowls or casserole. Then cover with a sheet of puff pastry that you press down on the top of the pre-cooked crust to form a seal. Cut slits or a design in your pastry top and brush with a mixture of well-beaten egg to which you have added a little water. Put in the preheated oven and cook until the pastry top has turned a golden brown and serve. This should take about 20-30 min at 425 degrees but it will very much depend on your oven. Don't open the oven until your crust is the desired color.

Transformation #2 - Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken and dumplings are a childhood favorite for me and take me back to Sunday supper at my grandmother's house. I don't know why I don't make them more often.

Using the same technique for transformation #1, shred the chicken from the bones and then set the chicken aside. No need to dice it for this recipe. Transfer the leftover gravy/sauce mixture to a deep pot such as you would cook spaghetti in - you want taller sides than surface for heat. Add chicken stock/broth to this pot to thin it a bit, then make a roux with about 2 T flour and some heated broth, forming a loose paste, which you will then add back to the pot. You want to cook this for a few minutes so that the flour will cook down and lose that raw taste. You do not want the liquid to be too thick at this point since the cooking dumplings will thicken the liquid later in the process. Add a little more cream and stir the mixture. You will need enough liquid to be able to poach your dumplings so adjust the broth and cream until you have enough liquid to bring it up about half-way on the side of your pot. If you like the taste of mushrooms, add some thinly sliced mushrooms to the liquid at this point.

For Rolled Dumplings:

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons shortening
  • 1/4 cup milk

Combine flour, baking powder, and remaining salt, stirring well. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add milk, stirring to form a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead gently 30 seconds. Do not overwork your dough or you will end up with a tough dumpling.

Roll dough to 1/8-inch thickness; cut into strips that are 1-2 inches wide and no more than 6 inches long each (some people like to cut them into squares, but my grandmother always made the long strips).

Modified from the recipe found at

When you are ready to cook your dumplings, let this liquid mixture come to a full boil, and then toss your dumplings into the liquid, reduce the heat, and gently poach them for about 10-15 minutes. (I like rolled dumplings rather than dropped, but this is a personal taste.) They will start to puff up a little when they are done. Gently add back in your shredded chicken, fold it in the liquid so as to not tear your dumplings, and then cover and simmer on the stove for about 15 minutes before serving to heat your chicken all the way through.

Transformation #3 - Chicken and Rice Soup

Using the same technique as for the chicken and dumplings, set aside the shredded chicken and dice it into 1 inch cubes and set aside. Thin the gravy/sauce with chicken stock or broth until you get the desired consistency for soup and then add 1 cup of rice (I like a mixture of brown and wild rice) and cook the rice in the liquid until the rice is done - it will be very soupy and if it gets too thick, add more chicken broth.This is also a great way to use up leftover rice, even the white rice you get with Chinese food. Add the diced chicken to the liquid and stir well. You may need to adjust your salt and pepper to taste because of thinning out the liquid so much. When you get to the consistency you prefer for soup, spoon into a soup bowl and serve with hot biscuits. If you like mushrooms, you can add thinly sliced mushrooms before adding the chicken back in and cook over medium heat until the mushrooms are the desired doneness, and add back in the chicken, heat and serve hot.

So Have We Succeeded in Transforming Leftovers?

I hate having food go bad in my refrigerator or freezer simply because I cannot bear to eat leftovers one more day. If the leftovers are re-purposed and transformed into something completely different that I might have made anyway, I find that I no longer think of them as "left-overs". Instead, it's combining the initial phases of cooking things that I'd love anyway so that when I get ready to transform them, dinner is quicker because the heavy lifting of cooking has already been done on an earlier day in the base recipe.

Let me know if any of these variations works for you or if you have other variations on the 40 Cloves of Garlic recipe that I can add to my repertoire!


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