Jamie Oliver’s recipe for chicken in milk has gotten a lot of love on the Internet. It’s been posted, with heaps of praise, on The Kitchn, Food 52, Huffington Post, and Oprah, plus a slew of blogs. My friend Stacey recently shared her adaptation on her blog, Stacey Snacks (Stacey posts all kinds of wonderful recipes so do check out her blog if you haven’t already).
It’s a good recipe, a clever riff on a classic Bolognese recipe for pork loin braised in milk.
But Oliver’s recipes get a lot of love all the time, so I thought I’d send some to the two women who introduced me to the recipe more than a decade ago: Ruth Rogers and the late Rose Gray, founders of London’s famed River Cafe. Before Gray died in 2010, the duo wrote numerous cookbooks together, including this one back in 2004, in which their recipe for chicken in milk appears.
I remember pulling the book off my friend Michelle’s book shelf. The metallic cover was striking, and oddly appealing, and inside the writing was easy and conversational. I liked the prep-as-you-go style of the recipes (a style that has recently been revived by Mark Bittman in his latest book). I had just signed my first book contract and I couldn’t help wondering (with a fair amount of disbelief) whether my book would ever be sidled up against such a book as this, in a book store on someone’s cookbook shelf.
All these years later, it’s still one of my favorite everyday cookbooks, for its uncluttered, almost minimalist style. The chicken in milk recipe is similar to the version that Oliver has made famous, except that Gray and Rogers call for braising the chicken on the stovetop rather than in the oven. Oliver uses lemon zest rather than whole lemon, and tosses in a cinnamon stick. Whichever way you go, you won’t be disappointed.
[Head’s up, though: this is not the prettiest chicken dish. As the milk cooks and reduces, it transforms into a thick, curdled brown sauce that coats the meat in a most unattractive way. HOWEVER, that sauce is rich and savory, and the meat cooks to perfect tenderness.]
In this variation on a Tuscan classic, chicken takes the place of pork loin and is braised slowly in milk, a process that yields tender meat and a deliciously savory "curdled" brown sauce. It is, admittedly, not the prettiest chicken dish, but certainly one of the tastiest. This recipe is adapted slightly from "Italian Easy: Recipes From the London River Cafe, by Rose Gray and Judy Rogers (Clarkson Potter, 2004).
- 1 (4 lb) organic chicken
- 6 garlic cloves
- 1 lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 1/4 cups whole milk
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 8 to 10 large sage leaves
Wipe the chicken clean and trim off the excess fat. Peel the garlic.
Cut the lemon in half. Rub the chicken all over with lemon, squeezing the juice into the skin and cavity. Season inside and out with salt and pepper.
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan large enough to hold the chicken snugly, and brown the chicken on all sides. Add the garlic and sage and fry for a minute. Pour in the milk and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently with the lid at half tilt for 30 minutes, basting the top from time to time. Turn the chicken and simmer another 30 to 45 minutes, until the chicken is done.
The milk will reduce to make a thick curdled sauce. If the chicken is done before the sauce, remove the chicken to a plate and raise the heat to high. Cook the sauce, stirring, until thickened.
Cut the chicken into serving pieces and spoon the sauce on top.
Serving suggestions: rice pilaf and roasted carrots