March 5, 2019
There are so many ways to cook a whole chicken, but roasting tends to be the default. Rarely is braising considered for chicken, which doesn’t require the low heat and long cooking time to break down tough connective tissues. Braising will, however, produce meat that’s moist and tender to the point of falling off the bone, and there’s no danger of it drying out.
Virtually any liquid can be used in a braised dish, but Jamie Oliver made chicken braised in milk popular a few years ago, and it’s surprisingly delicious. The milk splits with the heat of the oven and the acid from the lemon, essentially the same process you’d use to make ricotta, producing a flavourful sauce you spoon over the chicken and any mashed potatoes or vegetables that happen to be sharing the plate. His version calls for sage leaves and a cinnamon stick, but the herbs you add are up to you—I like to omit the cinnamon and use whatever herbs happen to be in my fridge, often fresh parsley or cilantro, or sometimes a few chives. Browning the chicken first ensures you have crisp skin—remove the lid of the braising pot toward the end of the cooking time to brown it further, if you like.
And if you have a larger crowd to feed, it’s easy to braise two chickens at a time—either in a larger pot, or in two pots beside each other in the oven. Tuck a few potatoes or sweet potatoes directly on the oven rack to bake alongside the chicken, if you want to take advantage of the heat of the oven.
Chicken Braised in Milk
1 whole chicken
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
canola oil or butter, for cooking
a few strips of lemon zest or 1 lemon wedge
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups milk or half and half
a few sprigs of parsley or sage
Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Pat the chicken dry, season it with salt and pepper, and heat a heavy, ovenproof pot on the stove top over medium-high heat. (Alternatively, use a heavy skillet.) Add a drizzle of oil and brown the chicken all over, turning it with tongs.
Transfer the browned chicken to a pot or baking dish, if you used a skillet. 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’d like to brown the top a little more. To serve, pull the meat off the bones and drizzle with sauce.
- Julie Van Rosendaal
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