Don’t run away yet. This dish is insanely good in spite of its weirder than weird ingredients. If you don’t believe me, go check with the other foodbloggers. I’m certainly not the first to talk about Jamie’s brilliance with odd ingredients.
In fact, I remember watching the Naked Chef and just loving Jamie and his oddball expressions. He’s the one who first introduced me to the vodka in a watermelon trick! Now he’s a spokesperson for eating healthy and responsibly. His recipes focus on homegrown and ethically sourced ingredients (which I don’t always have access to–hey I’m on a small food budget that I spend too much of on treats to share with co-workers and friends) and the recipes are as delicious as ever.
1 whole fryer chicken with insides removed
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cinnamon stick
handful of fresh sage
10 cloves garlic
2 C milk
Preheat the oven to 375. Put the butter and a drizzle of olive oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. I hate to say this all the time, but really a dutch oven is better than a large stockpot or anything else for this dish. My dutch oven is indispensable to me. And you can get one for a pretty decent price. Wash the chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper and place in the dutch oven. It should sizzle and crack–that means the skin is browning! By the way, I always always use Kosher salt for cooking but this especially is a reason to use it. Kosher salt is rough and jagged and sticks to food better than iodized table salt which is rounded and falls off.
While the chicken is browning, zest both lemons and tear the leaves off of the sage. Jamie also says to leave the skins on the garlic cloves but I took them off 1. for fear that they would get lost in the sauce and I’d eat one and 2. because I figured I could smash one of the cloves on some bread.
When the first side is browned, turn the chicken over to brown the other side. Don’t worry, the chicken will cook through when you put it in the oven. When the second side is browned, remove the chicken to a plastic cutting board (using raw meat on wooden cutting boards freaks me out). Put the milk, zest, garlic and sage leaves in the pot and stir well. Place the cut lemons (with seeds removed) and the cinnamon stick in the cavity of the chicken. Jamie doesn’t do this either but I’m always a fan of aromatics inside chickens and turkeys. Place the chicken back in the pot and bring the milk sauce to a simmer.
At this point I looked at the contents of the dutch oven and thought to myself This can’t possibly end well! Look at this gunk! But Jamie proved me wrong and taught me never to question a Naked man because clearly if he’s bold enough to be Naked, he’s right about something.
Place the lid on the pot and the pot in the oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, take the lid off and baste the chicken with the sauce. There are so many clumps in the sauce that it’s a good idea to just use a spoon instead of a baster. Keep the chicken in the oven for another hour, basting occasionally. When the time is up, remove the chicken and test the temperature with an instant-read thermometer inserted to the thickest part of the meat. The temp should read 165 or higher. Cook longer if need be.
The chicken is so succulent and moist and the lemon, sage, and cinnamon somehow complement each other so well. Everything just works in this dish. I like to cut off some meat (I prefer white to dark) and spoon on some of the thin, lemony milk. The sauce is also great on creamy mashed potatoes and I imagine it would be great on broccoli too. There’s an entire dinner idea for ya. Boil potatoes, mash with butter, salt, pepper and cream, microwave frozen broccoli and make this chicken. Easy, delicious, and budget-friendly. This is perfect for a busy weeknight or any night when you have lots of homework.
If Ina Garten makes anything that isn’t a lemon tart, it is pretty much inevitable that she will use chicken stock and tell you that you can use store-bought chicken stock but it’s really best to use homemade. Every. Time. And use good olive oil, good vanilla, and her overpriced boxed mixes. From what I can tell, these are the credos of the Barefoot Contessa. I can agree on the vanilla (why not make your own!), the olive oil for dipping (inexpensive is fine for other stuff), and the chicken stock. Homemade chicken stock is cheaper, more flavorful, and allows you to control the amount of sodium which is important since you can control the sodium in dish you use the stock in. Big deal. So when you’re done with the chicken, toss the bones and tough parts in a pot with some water, leftover vegetables, and whatever leftover herbs you’ve accumulated and stored in the freezer. I use store-bought fresh herbs in the winter and I can never use them before they go bad. So a few days before they get gross, I stick them in the freezer in a little bag. Whenever I have extra vegetable pieces I add those too. This can also be done with just bones–beef, veal, etc or just vegetables. So in this batch of stock I used the bones and attached meat of the chicken, lots of water, a cut up carrot, asparagus ends (remember those?), sage, basil, and chives. Just boil this for a while, then cover, reduce the heat and ignore for a while longer. It freezes or stays in the fridge for a few days. You can also label plastic bags with measurements and spoon cupfuls of broth in before freezing. Quick, easy, and smart storage.
Michael Ruhlman gives a great set of instructions (and reasons for using) for stock. So does Thomas Keller and co. in his French Laundry cookbook. It’s worth checking out at the library for the best instructions for complicated, takes-a-few-days stock. Carol of French Laundry at Home and Alinea at Home fame goes through the French Laundry process and the Alinea process because she is clearly a rockstar. But like Michael says, the most important thing is to make your own stock…however you do it. He even prefers water to bought stock. (Shocking!)