Let me preface this by saying the above photo does not do this chicken justice.
Also: I hope you don’t mind more photos of my PJ pants.
‘Tis the season for braising; short, grey and chilly days call for long, slow cooking. When so much time is spent puttering around at home, packing up decorations and weaning oneself off holiday chocolate, it’s the perfect time to slide a piece of meat into the oven and let it warm the house as it slowly cooks. Sure, you could put it into the slow cooker, but I love the dark stickiness you get from a pot, and the satisfaction of having it simmering in the oven while you pad around the house in your woolies.
We made this on a day spent entirely in PJs. This chicken braised in milk with lemon, garlic, sage and cinnamon comes from Jamie Oliver – and if you look at his bird, it’s pretty gorgeous – dark and crisp and delicious-looking – but not likely as tender as one braised with the lid on. Cover it up and swap crispy skin for juicy meat and a tasty albeit unphotogenic dinner.
Or take the lid off for a half hour or so at the end and get the best of both worlds.
The combination of milk + lemon + heat creates this split sauce that’s delicious over the chicken, and requires no making of gravy. I gave it a go without the handful of fresh sage, as it’s not something I often have lying around, and next time I’ll hold the cinnamon stick too. I get a strange satisfaction out of tossing a cinnamon stick in just about anything, and yet unless it’s a curry, I find it adds a sort of medieval flavour to meat I can’t quite get into. But really I think you could make this plenty of ways, so long as you don’t mess with the chicken, milk, lemon and garlic. But who needs more than that?
Jamie instructs browning the chicken in half a cup of butter first, then throwing away the excess left in the pot before adding the rest of the ingredients. I browned mine in oil, which still created those tasty browned bits, and I didn’t need to toss anything out. Bonus: the cloves of garlic, which have also braised in milk, can be squeezed out of their jackets (unless you peeled them completely) onto crusty bread or into smashed potatoes to serve alongside. Yum.
Braised Chicken in Milk
adapted from Jamie Oliver
1 whole chicken
salt and freshly ground black pepper
canola oil or butter, for cooking
zest of a lemon or two
1 head garlic, divided into cloves (no need to peel their skins)
2 cups milk
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Pat the chicken dry, season it with salt and pepper, and heat a heavy, ovenproof pot on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Add a drizzle of oil and brown the chicken all over, turning it with tongs.
Add the remaining ingredients to the pot, cover and bake for 1 1/2 hours, removing the lid for the last half an hour if you like to brown the top a little more.
To serve, pull the meat off the bones and drizzle with sauce; add a few cloves of garlic.