This recipe for cooking whole chicken is still one of our absolute favorites. Between the tender slow-cooked meat and that incredible lemon-sage sauce, there's so much to love! Just how does this chicken get to be so darn good?
This recipe has a lot of interesting things going on beneath the surface, especially for being so relatively simple! Here's the original recipe so you can follow along:
• Chicken in Milk from JamieOliver.com
Anatomy of This Recipe
So we're cooking a whole chicken in good amount of milk in a small pot at a low oven temperature. Does that sound like a braise to you or what?!
We actually really love braising chicken. It's always tricky to keep chicken from drying out using other methods like grilling and roasting. Braising in gently simmering liquid practically guarantees tender, succulent meat.
Oliver's recipe doesn't say to cover the pot, but we've found that putting a lid on helps to retain the moisture and infuse more flavor into all of the meat, not just what's touching the liquid. If your pot doesn't have a lid, you can simply cover the bird with a double layer of aluminum foil. If you want a little crispy skin on top, you can take off the lid in the last fifteen minutes or so of cooking.
Searing the entire chicken before adding the liquid can be awkward, but it's totally worth it. Getting the skin nice and golden gives the dish a deep savory note.
The idea of using milk as the braising liquid is really interesting. You can really use any liquid you want, but the milk adds a sweetness that compliments the savory meat, the tangy lemon, and the cinnamon. It also probably helps to tenderize the meat during cooking. Plus it makes that sauce…
And what's up with the sauce breaking into curds? Check out this post on the effect of lemon oils on milk!
Ways to Modify This Recipe
Stripped down to its bare essentials, the key ingredients to this recipe are the chicken, the milk, and some sort of acid to split the milk and add flavor. You could certainly try this recipe with other meats. We could see duck and pork being especially tasty.
In place of the milk, you could try any other dairy: heavy cream, buttermilk, or even yogurt. We'd thin some of those thicker dairies down to the consistency of milk using a little broth or water.
In place of the acid, you could use limes or even oranges. It might also be interesting to try a few tablespoons of a good, flavorful vinegar or white wine.
And in place of the cinnamon and sage, well, the sky's the limit! Think about a southwestern version with limes, chipotle chiles, and cumin. Or you could play off of the cinnamon by adding cardamom, anise, and cloves.
Have you made this chicken yet? How have you modified the recipe?
(Image: Faith Durand for the Kitchn)