First Date Chicken, a.k.a. Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

I haven’t been on that many first dates, dear reader. In fact, I can’t say I ever really dated. I just ended up in relationships. Ugh. Lol

I can count my first dates on one hand; there were five of them. They all happened in a four-year span, from ages 18-21. Yes, I was a late bloomer. Maybe it was my innocence, quirkiness, and utter lack of shame that made them curious enough about me to ask me out a second time; I didn’t know how to be coy and I was 100% myself, which maybe was refreshing. Whatever it was, they all saw the real me from the get-go, and it didn’t faze them.

June 1995… never been on a date. So innocent. That hair. Those braces. Hawt.

My most memorable first date was when I was 20 years old, living in Fredericton, NB; I remember going on a first date with a guy who was in my drama class at Saint Thomas University. He was so funny and nice, and he had a great sense of humour. Good thing, because our first date was at this awesome little Chinese food restaurant called The Diplomat. They had the most amazing buffet, they were open late, and the food was always delicious. And it was my favourite place to eat, so I suggested it for our date.

I was 20! Had only been on 4 first dates at this point… that’s Mr. Chinese Food holding my hand.

I was clearly a novice at dating. Who chooses a Chinese restaurant for a first date? You’re supposed to suggest something posh and fancy, not a place where you fumble around with chopsticks, eat ribs with your hands, have to lick your fingers every five minutes, and a key ingredient for every dish is garlic.

Chinese food is not bland. It’s garlicky and pungent, and has a tendency to drip and make an awful mess. Why we thought it would be a good idea to eat Chinese food on a first date is beyond me. What he couldn’t have known about me is that I eat Chinese food with gusto; I inhale it. I don’t take breaths. I eat it like an animal.

I ate all this probably in less than 10 minutes. Chinese food is my sixth love language.

So there we are, on a date, and I’m making an utter ass of myself, digging into my Almond Guy Ding and garlic spare ribs like it’s The Last Supper. I’m panting and sticky and my tummy is getting bigger and bigger. I’m so happy. We are laughing and talking away and I have bits of food in my teeth… And then it hits me…

He’s going to try to kiss me. And I smell like onions and garlic. And there’s crap in my teeth. I’ll probably burp in his face. Oh. No. I’m just going to eat the rest of my meal, pretend everything is okay, and never go back to drama class ever again.

The long and the short of it is we dated for over a year, and the smelly, stinky first date Chinese food didn’t deter either of us from seeing each other again. So my thinking is that you should always eat something disgusting on the first date and then see if they are still interested. If they are, then they’re definitely a keeper. Or at least worth a second date.

August, 1999. Third date with Steve! Gross shots, stinky fish, and Boiled Dinner couldn’t even keep him away!
November 1999… I couldn’t shake him! ❤️

Fast forward to today. Steve is a big fan of garlic and we both don’t care if we reek, so long as the meal was satisfying. So I suggested First Date Chicken for dinner tonight and he said to go for it. I bought a pre-packaged bag of peeled garlic and he looked at me and said “This chicken dish actually has 40 cloves of garlic in it?” Oh Steve…

Mmmm garlic!

It was actually quite an easy meal to make. The pre-packaged peeled garlic was a time-saver. I only made four thighs and they were bone in; doing it again next time, I’d get 8 boneless thighs, with the skin on. I think the girls would find them easier to eat.

I liked the bone-in thighs. The girls did not.

Another consideration is the sweetness factor. If you don’t like a sweet sauce for your chicken, put less brown sugar. The honey is yummy, though, so keep that.

Brown sugar, honey, and thyme. Sweet and savoury.

It was a scrumptious meal. The garlic was soft and sweet after being fried and baked, perfect for spreading on baguette slices. The chicken was tender and juicy and the gravy was delicious on top of mashed potatoes. I ate it with gusto. Then, as I helped Steve load the dishwasher, he thanked me for dinner and he gave me a stinky, garlicky kiss. He passed the test!

First Date Chicken, a.k.a. Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

Serves 4


  • 8 boneless chicken thighs, skin on
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
  • 40 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1.5 cups white wine
  • 2 Tbsp light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 3 Tbsp crème fraîche, or heavy cream
  • 2 tsp lemon zest (optional)
  • Possible garnishes: lemon slices, hot pepper flakes, and fresh parsley


1. Preheat oven to 400°F

2. Generously season chicken thighs with salt and pepper, on both sides.

Lots of salt and pepper.

3. Melt two tablespoons of butter in a large cast-iron skillet, or other oven-safe pan or Dutch oven. Add chicken, skin-side down, and brown for 4 minutes per side. Remove chicken from the pan and set aside.

The skin should be golden.

4. Melt remaining tablespoon of butter in the pan and add your garlic cloves. Cook, stirring often, until they are golden. Add the shallots and cook for 5 minutes more.

Onions and garlic, a match made in stinky heaven.

5. Add the wine and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

6. Stir in the brown sugar, honey, and sprigs of thyme. Put the chicken thighs on top. Season with salt and pepper. Place in the preheated over for 30 minutes. Cook until the internal temp of the chicken is 165°F.

Sweet and delicious!
Into the oven to finish cooking.

7. Remove the chicken from the pan. Put the pan back on the stove on medium heat. Add the flour and crème fraîche and lemon zest, if using; stir and cook until thickened. If too thick, add a bit more wine to thin it out. Take it off the heat when it comes to a boil.

The delicious gravy. Mmm

8. Put the chicken back in the pan and cover with sauce. Garnish as desired. Serve with mashed potatoes.


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