I realized that when I was making schnitzel for the first time, that these monthly cooking lessons I’m blogging about will never be great successes. They will always be imperfect, in need of help, and hardly the source of inspiration to anyone reading. Because I’m making the recipes once and for the first time. How inspiring can amateur hour be? Cooking is definitely a realm of practice makes perfect, so to try things once and expect high (bloggable) quality is ridiculous on my part. It also means I should be cooking from recipes more than once a month. That’s not going to happen anytime soon. So, in April, I decided to practice a recipe instead of trying something new. For the third time, I made Jamie Oliver’s chicken in milk recipe.
I first read about this recipe on The Kitchn when a writer for the site declared it to be possibly the best roast chicken recipe ever. Even better than the recipe from San Francisco’s Zuni Café, which everyone touts as the best. To boot, she wrote that it was very easy to make. Best and easy always grab my attention. When I was in search of something to make for a small New Year’s Eve dinner party two years ago, I referred back to the article and the writer’s slight alteration to Jamie’s original recipe. Having not tried a multitude of roast chicken recipes (read: I’d made one once before that), I don’t know if it’s the best, but it’s certainly the best that I’ve ever had from a home oven. The aromatics are an unexpected combination, but yield such a delicate and nuanced flavour, in addition to one of the most amazing cooking aromas to ever be emitted from Chez Rhianna. Cinnamon and garlic? Lemon and sage? Yes and yes. Just don’t think about it if it sounds weird. The odd duck is actually the milk the chook is cooked in, which makes this technically more of a braise. The moisture and added fat do wonders for keeping it moist and fall-apart tender.
The strangeness you most have to prepare for is the resulting sauce of curdled milk. It is not very appetizing to look at, but when spooned over the chicken and accompanying starch (mashed potatoes or rice would be best), it is liquid gold. The sauce, almost more than the chicken, really holds on to the flavours of the cinnamon stick, sage leaves, lemon zest, and roasted garlic and should absolutely be the gravy when served. It all ends up in your tummy, so maybe just heavily garnish with fresh parsley if you’re not crazy about the looks. It is also essential that you fish out the garlic cloves as they are now roasted and sweet. I say to have bread on the table so that you can smear those suckers all over a soft slice. Or, something slightly larger, like I did.
Tired with my monthly plates being the traditional meat/starch/veg, I decided I would load my chicken on a baguette and make a fantastic sandwich. One side got smeared with the roasted garlic, then I laid the chicken about, spooned over some of the sauce, placed some soft sage leaves, drizzled some olive oil, and then—happiness. The chicken is too tender to be carved nicely, so shredding it by hand to make a fresh roasted chicken sandwich was an obvious choice for me. But for you, it could be a nice way to use up any leftover chicken.
To pretend to be healthy, I wanted something vegetal on the side, but I thought I would put in a little bit more effort than bagged mesclun with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. That week, I had come across a recipe for a radicchio salad on Food52 by Max and Eli Sussman. It was more involved than I wanted for a simple side-salad-for-one, but I stripped it down to make it work. Really stripped it down. Like just putting the fig balsamic dressing on the radicchio. EXCEPT I also employed their technique of browning roughly half the radicchio right before serving. Big thumbs up. The slightly charred leaves added significant depth to the bitter leaves. The dressing was on the sweet side, which contrasted perfectly with the radicchio. I would totally make the fully composed salad for a dinner party.
I even made dessert. A very simple Cuban pudding that I learned about while listening to Evan Kleinman’s Good Food podcast. The mix of cinnamon, vanilla, and citrus made it just a little bit more special than your typical vanilla custard without taking anything away from the simple comfort of cold and creamy. I’m not sure I’d make it again, as it was a little looser than I prefer, but the ease of making a custard without tempering the eggs was very welcome.
Now, go make this chicken before it gets too warm outside!