This skillet chicken and rice recipe goes bold with a whole head of garlic

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It calls for a whole head of garlic.

For a clove or three, I gently hit the garlic with the broad side of my chef’s knife, remove the skin and then slice, mince or grate it. If a recipe calls for smashing it, I’ll just hit it harder with that flat side of the chef’s knife.

When a recipe calls for a whole head, however, I like to save time and mess.

To remove the papery skin, I rely on one of these three methods.

My favorite is to shake them: Place the cloves in a large, clean, dry jar with a hard lid (such as an empty pickle jar) — or put the cloves in a metal bowl, invert a bowl of equal size over the top and hold the bowls together where the rims meet. Shake vigorously for 15 to 20 seconds. If any still have skins, repeat the process with those. You may have to then peel a few, but most should shake loose from their skins. This method works best with slightly older, drier heads of garlic. For fresher or stubborn garlic, you may have to snip off the end of each clove where it was attached at the root.

If I’m adding the garlic to a sauce, I might try one of these methods. Both result in slightly softened garlic.

Microwave: Place the cloves on a plate and microwave on HIGH for about 15 seconds. Remove and allow to cool for a few minutes. The skins should then easily release. If not, give them another blast, of 5 seconds this time.

Hot water: For this method, you cut the end of each clove where it was attached to the root. Put a kettle on to boil water. In a large bowl, add the cloves and cover with boiling water and let sit for five minutes, or until skins begin to loosen. Drain, cool and then peel.

(Another method we experimented with in The Post’s Food Lab: Detach the cloves from the head. Transfer them to the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, attach the bowl guard to keep any cloves from flying out and beat on medium until the cloves have released their skins. This works, but the cloves get beat up and then there are the bowl, paddle and guard to clean. Too much work.)

And rather than mincing all of those cloves, I pull out my trusty garlic press. Maybe I prefer this method because I love strong garlic flavor.

I love popping each clove (we called them “toes” when I was growing up) into the little chamber of the garlic press, holding it over a bowl and then watching as the morsels and oils emerge and drop. For larger amounts, the press makes the task so much faster as compared with chopping on a cutting board.

If you have a garlic press, pull it out to make this garlic lover’s rice dish. It’s quick and easy to vary the potency. The more you break down the garlic, the more dominant it will be, so keep that in mind as you decide whether to slice, mince or press.

If you’ve got leftover rice, use it. If not, put the rice on before you start cooking and it should be ready just when you need it.

This dish calls for bite-size pieces of chicken pan-fried until browned, and spinach wilted in the same pan. Then, the garlic is quickly fried until golden. There are those who argue that this makes the allium bitter, but it is a bitterness I love.

Next, you mix that toasty garlic with white rice and let that combination rest on the bottom of the skillet until some of the rice grains brown and turn golden, too. Stir in the cooked chicken and spinach, and you’re done. You can sprinkle with a little Parmesan, if you like.

I’ve also made this dish with lean boneless pork chops, or you can toss cubed tofu with cornstarch, pan-fry it in a little oil until it is golden on all sides and stir that in at the very end. Try this with other grains you love or with your favorite tender greens, such as peppery arugula, in place of the spinach, too.

Storage Notes: Refrigerate for up to 3 days.

NOTES: If you need to make a fresh batch of rice, for 2 cups of cooked long-grain white rice, rinse 3/4 cup of rice until the water runs clear. Then, place it in a medium, lidded saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon olive oil and stir to coat the rice. Add 1 1/2 cups of water, a pinch of salt, if desired, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the rice is tender and the water is absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes.

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
  • Fine salt
  • Finely ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 ounces baby spinach (5 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons salted or unsalted butter, plus more if needed
  • 1 head garlic, peeled and minced, pressed or grated
  • 2 cups cooked long-grain white rice (see NOTE)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, for serving, plus more if needed

Set a large platter near the stove.

Pat the chicken dry and lightly season it with salt and pepper. In a large, nonstick skillet over high heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the chicken pieces in one layer, cooking in batches if necessary, and cook, stirring, until cooked through and browned, about 6 minutes. Transfer to the platter, and cover with another platter or the lid of a pot to keep warm. Add the spinach to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Transfer to the platter with the chicken.

Reduce the heat to medium-high, add the butter and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until just lightly brown, about 1 minute. Add the rice and stir until garlic is mixed in. Increase the heat to high, spread the rice on the bottom of the pan and cook without moving until the rice just begins to crisp on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Transfer the spinach and chicken to the skillet and lightly toss together until well mixed. Taste, and add more butter, salt and pepper, as needed.

Divide among four plates or shallow bowls and top each bowl with the Parmesan, serving more Parmesan tableside, if desired.

Per serving (1 1/2 cups, using unsalted butter)

Calories: 409; Total Fat: 14 g; Saturated Fat: 5 g; Cholesterol: 139 mg; Sodium: 180 mg; Carbohydrates: 26 g; Dietary Fiber: 1 g; Sugar: 0 g; Protein: 42 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

From recipes editor Ann Maloney.

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