I feel ridiculous writing another story about cooking chicken but this one is so astonishing, so easy and delicious, that with the snow day coming after an already long weekend, I have to share.
My friend Terri, who gives me all my best ideas, both in real life and in the kitchen, has been telling me for years about this blog called Stacey Snacks. Stacey lives in the next town over, and though I'm sure we've probably been in the same room at the same time at one point, we've never met. Sometimes Terri will say, "Did you see what Stacey Snacks wrote about this week? Did you subscribe yet?" And I will say, "No." I already subscribe to Canal House Cooks Lunch (beautiful, lyrical prose about the pleasures of cooking and friendship), Shockingly Delicious (energetic, informative posts from California) and Bad Home Cooking (funny as hell). Sometimes I dip into The Wednesday Chef (written by Terri's cousin, cookbook author Luisa Weiss.) I didn't really need any more electronic food advice. But Terri kept talking about Stacey's chicken and milk recipe.
Okay, you won't make this if you're kosher. Everyone else, add a quart of whole milk and a whole chicken to your grocery list and go shopping immediately.
I should tell an important thing about Terri and chicken: Several years ago, right around Thanksgiving, Terri persuaded me to order from Goffle Road Polutry Farm. Goffle is in Wyckoff, New Jersey. (Their website will tell you all about how to care for newborn chicks but that's not why I'm writing about them here.) They sell to some of the best local restaurants and only deliver to your home if your order is big enough ($75 or so); otherwise, you need to make a road trip. But Terri, bless her organized, brilliant foodie heart, offered to pool an order for a bunch of us from Goffle. She took delivery of it and let us keep our chicken in her freezer until we got around to getting it. She told me what to order: Boneless chicken thighs, bone-in breasts, skinless chicken breasts, fresh eggs and chicken sausage.
All of it was fabulous. I started ordering from Goffle whenever Terri did. Then, a month ago, I added a whole chicken to my order. A couple of days ago, when Teri started talking about Stacey Snacks' post on Jamie Oliver's roast chicken braised in milk, and I knew we were facing a long weekend that was full of carpooling to bar mitzvahs, cold weather, football, good deeds on Martin Luther King Day, and gray skies before a heavy snow storm, I took that chicken out of the freezer, set it on the counter and went about my day.
On Sunday afternoon, as the world settled in to watch the Sea Hawks and the Broncos, I set to work.
But it wasn't much work. That is the glory of this chicken. It's almost no work. You sauté for about ten minutes, cover it with whole milk, throw in a cinnamon stick, ten cloves of garlic (you don't even have to peel them!), some lemon rind and sage, put it all in the oven for an hour and half and that's it. And then...unbelievable. The chicken falls off the bones. The sauce is creamy and delicious. The results are just so awesome and you've done almost nothing.
I'm not sure what makes this chicken so good. There are so few ingredients, it's a joke.
My husband and 17 year old couldn't believe how good this dish was. (My 13 year old was at a friend's, betting on football.) Father and son started digging in. For a few seconds, all you could hear was the banging of fork against plate.
Then: "Mom, you should stop making everything else and just make this."
If I'd been thinking straight, I would have taken pictures so you could see how gorgeous this chicken is. Or you could just take my word for it, trust your imagination and run to the supermarket, before the snow hits. Grab a whole chicken, some whole milk, a couple of lemons, a bunch of garlic and a cinnamon stick, turn on the oven and make yourself a feast. You won't be sorry.
Roast Chicken Braised in Milk
1 whole chicken, about 4 pounds
10 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups whole milk
Zest from 2 lemons
1 cinnamon stick
Handful of fresh sage
Kosher salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Rinse chicken and pat dry. Season with kosher salt and pepper. Heat a heavy, oven proof oven (I used my mother's old yellow Dutch oven) on the stove. Add butter and olive oil. Brown chicken all over, for about ten minutes, until all sides are golden brown.
Sprinkle chicken with lemon zest and add garlic cloves, cinnamon stick, milk and sage. Cover and bake in oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Take the lid off and cook for another 15 minutes, so an hour and a half altogether.
The chicken will be falling off the bone by the end. Remove the bones and save for stock. Remove garlic from their shells. Voila. You are done, and everyone you hand this to will be deliriously happy.