Sheepherder style smashed garlic chicken recipe

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Montana used to host thousands of sheep and Basque sheepherders who, in their own ways, played just as big a role in the history of this state as their more famous counterparts, the working cowboys. Most of them kept chickens for themselves because the lambs were too expensive to eat.

  • Yield: 4 Servings


  • 6 to 8 boneless chicken thighs
  • sea salt
  • ¾ cup olive oil or clarified butter
  • 20 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 tbsp red pepper flakes
How to Make It
  1. Season the chicken well with salt. In a 12- to 14-inch cast-iron skillet or nonstick sauté pan, preheat the oil over medium-high heat. Slowly add the chicken. A splatter screen would probably be a good idea as there will be a lively interaction between the moist chicken skin and hot oil. (Whether you use olive oil or butter is a personal choice. Olive oil is healthier, and offers a more authentic taste, but butter can brown the chicken faster, making for a juicier result.) Turn each piece as needed to brown evenly, about 10 minutes or until the chicken is golden, then add the garlic and red pepper flakes mixing them in among the chicken pieces.
  2. Continue to cook the chicken for about 5 to 7 more minutes or until the garlic has browned, but not burned. The juices from the chicken should run clear. Add salt, adjusting seasoning to taste, then remove the chicken from the pan and serve immediately, spooning some olive oil, garlic, and pepper flakes over each portion. Pop the garlic cloves out of the skin and eat them whole. The cooking will have mellowed them and made them soft.

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