Mission briefing:

  • 1 chicken, rinsed, patted dry (you can also use chicken pieces)
  • Olive oil, about 3 Tbsp (tablespoons)
  • 2 heads of garlic, all the cloves separated. You can keep their skins on, but rub off extra-papery skins.
  • 2 cups white wine if you are rich, plus 1 cup water. Otherwise
    all water (it works fine – even better if you add chicken stock cube) –
    a cup is 250ml. Otherwise use a wine glass, full.
  • juice of 2 limes
  • salt and pepper
Heat oven to 350’F/180’C. In pot (…) heat the olive oil. Put the whole chicken in the pot and brown on all sides: keep on each side about 20 seconds. It will
sizzle a lot. The browning is to colour it a little. It should not take longer than about 2 minutes. Add the garlic cloves to the pot. Stir and let them heat up a little, about 30 seconds. Add the white wine and water or 3 cups water. Add lime juice. Crack black pepper over, and add about 1 tsp of salt. Add a small bunch of thyme (about 4 sprigs/branches) and put the lid on. Allow it to come to the bubble/boil. Put pot in the oven, covered with its lid. Cook for 2 hours. Every half hour or so look at it and spoon some juice over chicken. Also taste to see if you need more salt. If you have made it too salty a trick is to add some pieces of potato – they suck it up…. If the juice is drying add more wine or water… The idea is to have lots of delicious juice… For the last 30 minutes I take the lid off and let it brown. The chicken should be very tender at the end, falling off the bone, not like a typical roast chicken which is cooked au point, and firm.


Well, first of all, not having received the second mail until I came home, I didn’t have any white wine. So I used a cup of vermouth instead, and water. One less martini. Oh well, I’ll make it Vodka only. The most important remains my special garlic-stuffed olives, and that I have…

Speaking of garlic. After se-pa-ra-ting all the cloves, I decided that they looked too tightly wrapped in their outer shells, so I skinned them all of that extra-papery skin. The problem is, after two complete heads, my fingers were so sticky – yes, garlic sticks – and covered with that bloody skin that they looked like they had feathers. So I skipped the smallest cloves and ended up with probably less than 25. I’m ashamed.

Then there was the issue of the lime juice. ‘Them limes were a bit tough, to say the least, and I don’t own a fancy little juice extractor. I cut my limes in half, squeezed and squeezed, but without getting much more than a few drops. Pause. Thinking. Corrective action found. Taken. I opened a drawer, grabbed a pair of rusted pliers, adjusted them to the bigger gap, and went for round two. Much better. I now had what I thought was the juice of two limes.

The oven was pre-heated, the Le Creuset pot (an amazing gift from Marie) was warmed up and the camera set on the tripod. For the record. I chopped up an onion discovered abandoned behind coffee cans. Then I threw myself in the water. Well, the oil. The first step was pretty scary. The oil indeed sizzled a lot as I attempted to brown the chicken. For a fleeting moment, I was tempted to run to mama and switched to making hot-dogs. But I resisted and stuck my hands closer than wanted to turn the beast over. The results were shy. A slight change in color, maybe, on both main faces. Sides unchanged. Hmm.

I threw in the garlic. That’s the part I like. Throwing stuff in. I’m good at it. You can’t mess up, you can’t miss. Waited for a while and then threw more stuff in. The pot filled up a bit with liquid. I was afraid the chicken would drown. They don’t swim too well. Water, vermouth, onions, pepper, salt, hope. Lots of that last ingredient. I brought to a boil as instructed, then covered and transferred to the oven.

Religiously checking on my chicken every 30 minutes on the dot and pouring juice over it caringly, I let my two hours pass, then added another 20 minutes to brown it better. There was a moment of panic about half way though when I suddenly got stage fright; I couldn’t get myself to open the oven. Evil grinning faces were hovering above me, distorted by the oven’s heat and laughing out loud in bursts of painful sarcasm, their voices echoing between the walls of my narrow kitchen. You can pilot a plane, they were joking, but you can’t even cook a chicken without ATC guidance. You’re a VFR cook, you need a visible horizon and a long runway…

But eventually, it was ready. The smell was divine and my chicken’s skin had turned a very nice brown. I fished the nicest garlic cloves out of the pot and arranged them around the nicest piece. Then as I attempted to transfer the rest of the chicken to a plate to reduce the sauce, it fell apart on me. Marie wasn’t kidding about it falling off the bone!

It was simply delicious! I don’t think I had ever tasted such juicy and tender poultry. It literally melted in my mouth – and I don’t even pretend to have done it very well. But I had masterful guidance. ;-)

The kitchen is all cleaned up now, the Le Creuset is spotless and the dishes done. But for a while, it was as though I could feel a presence, gliding over the stove, guiding my hands, pushing right, pulling left, adding here, taking there, lovingly.


Come here I think you’re beautiful
I think you’re beautiful, beautiful
Some kind of angel come inside

[The Sisters of Mercy – Some Kind of Stranger]

I wonder what people will think of my 40-cloves breath in the morning…