It’s that time of year when those of us who grow our own garlic are getting a little antsy. I’ve long since used up my cured garlic from last year, and we’ve cut and eaten nearly all of the scapes (most of them are frozen as pesto for later). It’s still well over a month until I’ll be able to dig the bulbs for curing.
If you don’t have scapes, or just need more of a garlic fix, though, there’s always spring garlic. My garlic patch is small, so I hate to harvest early, but I was able to raid my mother’s garden for some last week.
If you pull a garlic bulb now, before the stalks have dried, you’ll probably find that it’s nearly full size but has not put on its papery coating. The individual cloves have formed but they are still wet. You can use this young garlic as you would regular cured garlic, but it’s milder and requires little or no peeling. Keep in mind, whether you buy some at your local farmer’s market or pull it yourself – it doesn’t keep well, so treat it more like a vegetable and use it up quickly.
This braised chicken recipe, which I found in the latest Moro book, is a wonderful way to use spring garlic while it’s in season. Shallots might do as a substitute, but the garlic has such a sweet mellow flavor I’d rather wait and make this just once or twice every spring.
It’s also a great use for Pedro Ximénez sweet sherry, which is otherwise a lovely dessert wine and delicious over vanilla ice cream. The garlic and fennel really go well with the sweetness of the sherry, producing a dish which is distinctly savory but not heavy.
Some sort of starchy side dish is important here, to soak up the juices. I like rice, preferably a fairly plain pilaf or risotto (too many flavors in the rice may overwhelm the garlic-sherry sauce). The cookbook authors recommend mashed potatoes, which I haven’t tried yet.
Chicken with spring garlic and Pedro Ximénez sherry
adapted from Moro East by Sam & Sam Clark
- 4 chicken pieces, with bone and skin
- 2 heads spring garlic
- kosher salt
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp fennel seed
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- 1/4 cup Pedro Ximenez sherry
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
Remove the outer layer of skin from the garlic, separate the cloves and chop them roughly.
Place a skillet over high heat and add the oil. Salt the chicken pieces well and sear them until golden on all sides.
Push the chicken pieces to the side of the pan and add the garlic, fennel and bay. Saute a few minutes until the garlic is soft and beginning to brown, then add the sherry and boil briefly. Add the water and vinegar and turn the chicken pieces in the liquid to coat. Cover the pan and simmer 15-20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Add salt, pepper or more vinegar to taste.
Serve with rice, couscous or potatoes, and a green vegetable.