Cook the Book: Is Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in Milk Really the Best Chicken Recipe of All Time?February 9, 2017
Love him or hate him, there is no stopping TV chef/cookbook author/activist Jaime Oliver. Famous for his brazen personality and his fun and accessible cooking (from which the “naked” moniker came about), the Essex-born “Naked Chef” continues to outdo himself with over 20 cookbooks and 30 food shows under his belt, even putting his advocacy for public health into action with his “Food Revolution” movement. His third book, “Happy Days with the Naked Chef”, released in 2002, was a bestseller for a reason. It featured the easy but tasty recipes Oliver is best known for, written in a way that reflects his cheeky but uncomplicated demeanor—think dishes entitled “Steak Sarnie” and “Lovely Pan-Baked Plaice with Spinach, Olives and Tomatoes.” Among these is a recipe called Chicken in Milk, which has garnered high acclaims from cooks the world over. Food website The Kitchn even claims it to be the “best chicken recipe of all time.” Naturally, we decided to put the recipe to the test. For the sake of research of course.
Although intuitively, milk might not be something you’d associate with meat dishes, you find applications of the combination all over—Italy has its Maiale al Latte, a traditional dish of pork cooked in milk; and buttermilk is already well-known for its ability to yield great fried chicken. Not only does milk make for more tender meat (thanks to the lactic acid present in milk that helps break down the chicken’s proteins) but in this recipe, it also forms the basis for the most delicious, creamy pan sauce that mingles with its juices and happily receives everything else.
The addition of cinnamon seems unusual in conjunction with the more mediterranean flavors of sage, lemon and garlic—but the combination fills the kitchen with the most intoxicating fragrance as it cooks. Equally warm and woody, with just enough brightness and pungency from the citrus and garlic, everything comes together harmoniously under the tender embrace of the milk. Is it the best chicken recipe ever? We can think of a recipe or two that can give it a run for its money. But is it utterly, lip-smackingly, roll-your-eyes-back-in-sheer-pleasure kinds of delicious? You bet.
Chicken in Milk
YIELD: 4 portions
TIME: 1 hour 40 minutes
- 1.5 kg chicken, higher welfare if possible
- sea salt
- black pepper, freshly ground
- olive oil
- ½ stick cinnamon
- 1 handful fresh sage, leaves picked
- 2 lemons’ zest
- 10 cloves garlic, skin left on
- 565 ml milk (around 2¼ cups)
- Preheat the oven to 190°C or 375°F.
- Season chicken generously all over.
- In a snug-fitting pot, pour in a little olive oil and fry the chicken, turning it to get an even colour all over until golden.
- Remove from the heat, put the chicken on a plate, and throw away the oil left in the pot. Put chicken back in the pot with the rest of the ingredients.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 1½ hours, basting with the cooking juices. The lemon zest will sort of split the milk.
- To serve, pull the meat off the bones and divide it onto plates. Spoon over juices and the little curds. Serve with wilted spinach or greens and some mashed potato.