When Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution first aired, I was impressed by the show and thought that maybe I should try out some of his recipes. As I discussed in that post, I haven’t been a big fan of Jamie Oliver, or of celebrity chefs in general, especially ones who tout quick-n-easy “recipease” (blech); therefore I stay away from celebrity recipes in general, and had never tried one of Jamie’s. However, I was impressed enough by the show, and by Oliver’s mission to improve school food for American children, to give his cooking a try. My friend Kim recommended his Chicken in Milk recipe; it seemed a good place to start.
Wow is a good word. So is fantastic. Delicious. Delectable. Honestly this dish is fabulous: hardly haute cuisine, but simple roasted chicken elevated from the ordinary to the extraordinary by a braise in lemon, garlic, sage and buttermilk. The meat is meltingly tender, the sauce is as delicious as it is ugly, the recipe is straight-forward while being unique. I’ve made this recipe several times since the Food Revolution aired last Spring: I’ve tried it with less fat and a skimpy initial browning (don’t do it!), I’ve tried it with whole milk, half-and-half and buttermilk, I’ve used fresh herbs and dried, I’ve omitted cinnamon and added basil. The recipe below reflects what I think is the best version, and is not so different from Jamie’s own: I’ve upped the garlic a bit, crisped the skin on the finish, and switched buttermilk for milk. All in all, no matter how you make it, this recipe is fabulous: Tai & Tanya obviously agree.
Adapted (slightly) from Chicken in Milk by Jamie Oliver
- one 3- to 4-lb roaster chicken
- salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 small lemons
- 1 head garlic (about 12 – 16 cloves), peeled
- 3 tbsp dried crumbled sage, or “a good handful” of fresh sage leaves
- 1/2 cinnamon stick (optional)
- 1 and 1/2 cups buttermilk (or milk)
- Rinse and season the chicken. Thoroughly rinse the chicken, inside and out, in cool, running water. Dry well with a clean kitchen towel or paper towels; season generously with salt and pepper. If you have time, allow the chicken to sit in the fridge, uncovered, for up to 24 hours, in order for the skin to air-dry (to produce a crispier skin). Remove chicken from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature for about 30 minutes prior to cooking.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Prepare seasonings. Zest both lemons. Juice 1 and 1/2 lemons; reserve one half lemon to stuff into the chicken cavity, along with a tablespoon of dried sage (or a small bundle of fresh sage leaves and/or stems). Crumble dried sage to release essential oils.
- Brown chicken skin. In a Dutch oven or covered casserole that will fit the chicken snugly, heat butter and olive oil over medium-high heat until butter has frothed and oil is shimmering. Add chicken and brown skin on all sides until nicely golden (I find using two sturdy wooden spatulas the easiest way of turning the chicken in the pot; tongs just rip the skin) about 3-4 minutes/side. Transfer chicken to a clean plate; pour off melted fat & juices, reserving in a heat-safe bowl (I use the fat to flavor mashed potatoes and to sauté the greens that accompany the chicken). Be patient with this step: it really helps to develop flavor in the finished dish.
- Roast chicken. Return chicken to the pot. Add lemon zest & juice, sage, garlic, cinnamon and buttermilk (sauce should be boiling briskly as soon as you add it; if not, raise heat and bring to a boil). Cover pot and transfer to the preheated oven. Roast chicken for about 1 hour or until internal temperature at the breast reads at least 170 degrees F. Remove lid from pot during the last 15 minutes of roasting for a crispier skin, or raise oven temperature to broil for the last 5 minutes of cooking and keep close watch on the chicken skin to prevent burning. Remove chicken from pot and allow to rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes prior to carving. Meanwhile, bring the sauce in the pot to a boil over medium-high heat and boil for a few minutes, stirring frequently, to slightly reduce sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings (add a tablespoon or two of the reserved fat for richness if needed).
- Serve chicken over mashed potatoes, drizzle with sauce, and accompany with a side of sautéed greens.
- Thyme, oregano or summer savory would make nice substitutes for the sage. Fresh herbs are lovely, of course, but when it is not the season for fresh sage, I use dried.
- Don’t be tempted (as I was) to cut down on the oil/butter in the inital searing step; the original recipe called for 1 stick of butter and “a little” olive oil. You do need a good amount of fat to get the skin nice and crispy before the braise, and the browning of the skin develops a fond on the pot that contributes to the flavor of the sauce. I’ve tried it with less oil/butter (down to 1 tbsp of each) and it just isn’t the same.
- I’ve tried this dish with both milk and buttermilk and I prefer buttermilk; it lends extra tang and seems to tenderize the chicken meat that much more. Of course, one could say that milk + lemon juice is buttermilk, but I have noticed a difference in the flavor and texture when I use whole milk.
- I’ve tried this with and without the cinnamon stick and I can’t say I notice much difference. If I remember, I toss it in. If not, I don’t worry about it.
Refrigerated for up to 5 days. Freeze any excess sauce for future addition to mashed potatoes.
Year round, but especially nice when friends visit.