chicken braised in milk
I swear I didn’t plan this on purpose, but it’s fitting that today’s post is about chicken braised in milk – a recipe from Jamie Oliver. I made this dish awhile back in the spring, right about when temperature turned from crisp and cool to hot and sticky. We woke up one morning – and it was sweltering outside. There was no ramping up – overnight, summer arrived and it seemed ill-timed to serenade anything braised for at least a few months. I put the recipe aside, but vowed to tell you about it first chance I got. Print this recipe and tuck it away somewhere where you can easily find it. It’s going to be a staple for you this winter. I promise you.
The irony of the timing of this post isn’t lost on me either. Less than a day before we depart for vacation in England (a few days of London followed by a couple of days in the countryside), I give you a recipe by one of the country’s most celebrated chefs. I didn’t plan on posting this particular recipe right before our UK sojourn – it just soft of happened. I’ve never properly been to London, outside of business trips and whatnot, so the only way I’ve experienced London before was through the windows of a taxi – not particularly thrilling, to be honest. But this time, it’s all about seeing friends, eating amazing English food, stopping by a pub in the afternoon for a pint or two. We can’t wait. We’re very much overdue for a vacation.
And a word about English food. Somehow, the stereotype that English food is terrible still persists, and it makes me so mad because it’s simply not true. English food is simple, comforting and elegant – without pretense or hyperbole. It’s the kind of food you want to eat right about this time of year. It’s unfussy and welcoming. It doesn’t belabor the point. Maybe years ago, British food was terrible, in the same way American food was terrible. But that’s no longer the case, American food has had a remarkable Renaissance, thanks to chefs like Alice Waters, Dan Barber, and lots of others. Same goes for British food. To be fair, there’s lots of terrible food around us everywhere. Bad food isn’t hard to locate. You can have a terrible meal in France (it’s easier than you think!), Italy, or Spain. You can have terrible food in New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, and other gastronomic centers of the country. And we all know that a lot of Europeans still think of American food as a hybrid of prepackaged foods, pizza, and McDonalds. Anyone who’s ever been to Times Square in New York knows that terrible food is all around us. Finding good food, food made carefully, lovingly, thoughtfully, with respect for the ingredients – takes some work. But it’s work that can be handsomely rewarded. Which is why after doing much research and asking some lovely folks about their recommendations, I’ve made a few reservations and I can’t wait to try them. I’ll have a full report when I’m back.
But more on this chicken. This recipe is sort of the recipe blogged round the world. If you’re unfamiliar with Jamie Oliver you should take the time and get to know him. You might have seen his show – Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution where he tried to get West Virginia school children to eat whole foods: including fruits and vegetables. Jamie is on a mission to get us all to eat real food. Whole ingredients. One recipe at a time. You can’t really argue with his motivation – it’s all wonderful stuff. I could go on and on about his projects, but really, you should just go and buy a book of his. Any book. You won’t be steered in the wrong direction, and my guess is you’ll return to buy a few more of his books. Jamie gives you tools to make serious food, minus the preciousness of it all. It’s food you want to take a bite out of: like this one.
One of Jamie’s postulates is that anyone can cook good food. Anyone. Just get a few quality ingredients, and let them stand on their own. And he does it here with this braised chicken. Simply put, you throw a few ingredients in the heavy bottomed pot, add the chicken, and let the whole thing just sort of do its thing. What I love is that left to its own devices, the chicken and the milk along with a few aromatics, fuse together to form something that while looks pretty pedestrian and earthly, yields you something elevated and ethereal. It’s a little bit of a rabbit in a hat trick, except there is no gimmick. The result of a few quality ingredients, left alone on low heat to ponder their fate, produces stunning, show-stopping results. After the first bite, I had to put my fork down and exhale – it was that kind of delicious. And I expect us to eat this well all throughout our trip – the English food I know has always been one of my favorite cuisines. We are coming hungry – London and Kent, you best be ready for us.
Chicken Braised in Milk
Adapted from Jamie Oliver
1 3½ lb chicken, preferably organic and pasture-raised
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4oz or ½ a pack of butter
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 good handful of fresh thyme
zest of 2 lemons
10 cloves of garlic, skin left on
1 1/2 pints milk
1/2 cup half-and-half
Preheat the oven to 375°F and find a snug-fitting pot for the chicken – I find that my 5 1/2 quart cocotte is perfectly suited for this.
Wash and pat dry the chicken. Season it generously all over, and fry it in the butter and a glug of olive oil, turning the chicken to get an even color all over, until golden. You will thus turn the chicken 4 times. While your chicken browns on all sides, prepare the other ingredients – you’ve been given perfect time for that.
Once the chicken is brown all over, remove from the heat, and put the chicken aside on a plate. Much as it will pain you, throw away the oil and butter left in the pot. You don’t need it anymore. But what you’re left with, at the bottom of the pan, is what Jamie refers to as this “tasty sticky goodness”. This “goodness” will give you amazing depth of caramelly flavor.
Place the chicken back in the pot along with the rest of the ingredients, and cook in the oven for 1 1/2 hours. Periodically, if you wish, baste with cooking juice.
The milk cooks down to this lovely, creamy sauce that’s accented by the lemon zest and is just about one of the most luscious, decadent things. You should serve the this chicken with the sauce along some beautiful fingerling potatoes. Or a panzanella salad!
To serve, let the chicken cool a few minutes, and pull the chicken off the bones, dividing it among the plates.
yum!!! now is the perfect time for that chicken. i’ve got to make it again since it is so delicious – a version with coconut milk would be my next try, i think. have fun in london! when we went there a few years ago, we were pretty broke & didn’t have much in the way of good food (though we did stumble onto the best little pub on the prettiest little street around earl’s court). enjoy!!
Jeanne – I know we’re gonna get killed on the exchange rate. But we’re staying w/friends and are thus saving $, so we figured some good food is in order. We’re having 2 nice dinners, but the rest will actually be nothing outrageous. Maybe I’ll put together a list of nicely priced places once we’re back.
The Rowdy Chowgirl
Have a wonderful trip! I was in England this summer, and the food was amazing everywhere, but especially in the village pubs. We ate at Jamie’s Italian in Oxford…oh, the bread!
Or better – don’t throw away the butter and oil, but use it to fry up some veg… even potatoes would be an absolute treat. :)
This seems like such a strange concept, and yet…I can see how it would be delicious. You steered me in the right direction with your post on honey-chipotle chicken breasts (yum), and so I might have to take your advice here too—I’ve got a whole chicken chillaxing in my freezer now.
Have a fantastic vacation! I’m sure you’ve earned it. :)
the blissful baker
what an interesting way to cook chicken! so unique, and it looks delicious!
Somehow, knowing that there was heavy cream in there made this seem more acceptable to me.
That said, do you watch “Always Sunny in Philadelphia?” I only ask because Charlie Kelly’s favorite meal is “milk steak”…boiled over hard. :)
Have a great time in London!
This is my method for cooking pork-our family favorite for birthdays. I have heard it described as a “southern thing” (Lee Bailey) and as a “Tuscan thing”. Any way you look at it, it’s good. My family likes a little Dijon mustard whisked into the drippings. Can’t wait to try on chicken.
Christine – it is SUCH a great show! :)
Interesting to see that he leaves the skins on for the garlic! I have never cooked it that way, probably infuses the milk sauce just right, not overpowering.
Will definitely try once it gets fall-like chilly down here in SC! Have a great time in England.
Jamie is so clever. I really love this recipe. Braising with milk might be a touch of genius.
I’ve returned to this post like 5 times and finally had to comment. zomg. My farmers market just started getting poultry, and I’ve been wanting to try Coq au Vin again, but I may have to do this. Also, my fully-grown sister has a strange habit of drinking milk while she eats chicken and I wonder if this just might cure her of that. Anyhoo, hello and wonderful post!
really?! by gum, may need to give this a go…
i love this post more than you could ever know :) Have a fabulous time in blighty…..oh how i miss it.
Zo @ Two Spoons
I have to say, Jamie never lets you down when it comes to roast chicken. Will totally make this next time I get my hands on some organic free range chicken. I suppose you could always roast some potatoes in the butter/oil used to sear the chicken?
Awesome post :)
I roasted fingerling potatoes in the chicken butter/oil and they came out great. The citrus, cinnamon, and milk smell of the sauce made me think of rice pudding. So when dinner was done I fished out all the solid pieces from the sauce except for the cinnamon stick and added a cup of jasmine rice, a third of a cup of sugar, and a few handfuls of raisins and cooked it down adding water as I went. I ended up with a slightly savory, but tasty rice pudding for dessert. I love when ingredients keep on giving.
Welcome to London, may I recomend J Sheekys for seafood, Columbis Rd flower market on a Sunday and Mark Hix in Soho for a great dinner. Enjoy xxx
caroline | surprised by joy
I made this chicken last spring for Easter and between only three of us, we easily polished off the whole thing and then poked the empty bones sadly, hoping to find a little extra meat hidden.
I love Jamie Oliver and think this recipe is quite a feather in his very full cap. Enjoy England — I lived there for awhile in college and adored it. You will have a marvelous time!
I’ve made this chicken and loved it. Your post inspired me to make it again. I love him and Your site is great. Have and amazing trip. Try jamies in Oxford. Fab food and great service. Beth
I have to chime in about the English food discussion. I agree with you 100%. I lived in Paris last year as an au pair and I made a friend from London and a friend from Ireland. We talked about food often, and compared their cuisines to American, and French, too. It’s so easy to resort to tired, oversimplifying stereotypes about a culture’s food. Those stereotypes may have some basis, sure. Still, cooks like Jamie, and all the amazing American cooks and food bloggers creating decadent dishes all the time destroy these myths about American and UK food being bad. You can easily eat bland, boring food in Rome and Paris (and I have.) Hunting down the real gems of a city’s culinary offerings, and preparing quality food at home, requires a bit of effort sometimes, but it’s possible probably anywhere on earth.
Lol a bit of a soapbox…but sometimes I got so frustrated with people I met in Paris reciting the old, “English food is bad, Americans only eat McDonalds” mantra. The French can make a damn good croissant, and I miss the stinky fromageries like crazy–but sharp English cheddar with a slice of crisp apple is deLICious, no matter what a Parisian says. And thick slices of English white cheddar, melted on toast with some Branston relish? Sooo good! I miss that like I miss French butter spread on crackly baguette with thin-sliced radish and fleur de sel on top. Variety is a good thing, and all cuisines can shine with quality ingredients and good preparation.
Sarah from 20somethingcupcakes
I always find it strange commenting on recipes on blogs, so often you see something amazing and just want to say “I love this!” but that’s what everyone seems to say. This however was such a fabulous post, I just had to tell you. You’ve thoroughly convinced me to make this, which is what a great post should do. So great job!
I have that book too :)
I’m going to Manchester in December and am already looking forward to eating their local… curry. I’m told the Indian food in Manchester is the best in England, and for a nation that lists Tikka Masala as their #1 dish that has to be good. When I think of English food I think of hearthy homemade stuff, pies and stews and roasts. Stuff that’s mostly enjoyed at home, not necessarily restaurant food. Maybe that’s why foreign visitors didn’t get a good idea of the food and the cliché was born.
Anyhow, I find my cookbooks by English chefs to be some of the most ‘usable’ at home (Jamie, Ainsley Harriott, Nigella Lawson,… and have Nigel Slater high on my to-buy list!)
I’ve made this dish twice and it is delicious! and I really like JO. this looks just as good as I remember!
Wonderful chicken recipe–unlike anything I’ve ever cooked. You have a beautiful blog with gorgeous photos. I will visit again for more lovely posts and inspiration.
Chicken is in the oven. Can’t wait to try it! Question: Should the lid be on or off for this? I am new to your blog and spent all morning reading it. Love it!
Lila – hope you get this in time. Lid ON! :) Happy braising!!! And thank you.
I tried this the other night and am not sure what went wrong, but it just did not turn out. I had a 5 lb chicken, but kept the amount of milk the same. The milk/cream mixture seemed like WAY too much, even with the larger chicken, but I tried anyway. It boiled over and leaked into the oven. But when removing the chicken, there was SOOOO much milk/cream “sauce” — it had not boiled down. Instead, I had a somewhat curdled milk/cream & fat liquid. I tried putting that in a separate pot to reduce, but still curdled mess. So many others have had success with this. What might I have done wrong? I used same oven temp listed and same amt of time listed. Chicken was done, but the reason I tried the recipe was for the great “sauce”.
I did make slight changes — subbed orange zest for the lemon, and nutmeg for the cinnamon. But other than that, did everything as instructed. Any advice? Thanks in advance!
moonvirgo – not sure if you had a big pot like mine, and if you kept the heat at a very low temperature. It’s hard to give advice on what went wrong when you weren’t in the kitchen with that person :( maybe the stars just didn’t align? Try it again, because it really is a wonderful and comforting dish around this time of year!
Thanks for the encouragement, Radish. I read Jamie Olivier’s site on the dish and it sounds like the curdling is suppose to happen. And maybe when I read that the pot should fit the chicken snuggly — maybe I took that too literally, lol. No worries. I followed the temperature you suggested, and my oven can be a few degrees colder than it reads, so I don’t think it was that. Probably just too small a pot. If I try it again, I will halve the milk/cream and see what happens. Thanks for your great site and for trying to help.
Wendi @ Bon Appetit Hon
I made this for dinner tonight and it was fantastic. I strained the juices because they had gotten a bit clumpy but a mesh strainer left me with a lovely smooth liquid. We will definitely be having this again. Thanks for introducing us to Jamie’s Milk Braised Chicken.
Milk Braised Chicken | Bon Appetit Hon
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