braised chicken with lemon, sage and milk

It’s pretty rare that I come across a recipe that I’ve never heard of, or at least some semblance of, before. So when I came upon a Facebook post from The Kitchn, stating that Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in Milk is probably the best chicken recipe of all time, I clicked through to read the article.

I’ve never heard of cooking chicken in milk. Ever. From anyone. The fact this recipe from The Naked Chef calls for such an odd mix of milk, whole cloves of unpeeled garlic, a cinnamon stick, fresh sage and lemon zest truly had me intrigued. Considering I’ve never been a huge fan of Mr. Oliver, I was a bit dubious about trying this. But then I Googled “Chicken in milk recipe” and, lo and behold, it seems the folks at The Kitchn are not the only ones who rave about this particular dish.

It almost makes sense to me, cooking chicken in milk because, once you add the lemon zest to the milk, you’re creating a homemade version of buttermilk. Now, most of us have had buttermilk fried chicken and can attest to the fact that it’s delicious. So, without giving it any more thought, I decided to try it.

I picked up a whole chicken on my next trip to the store, plucked fresh sage leaves from one of my many bushes and, on a cool, dreary Sunday, the cooking commenced. Is this the best chicken recipe ever? Hmmmm. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but I’ll tell you this: It’s pretty damned delicious.

Now, one thing left open for interpretation with this recipe is that Jamie simply calls for “1 good handful of sage”, so I may have gone a little easy on it. I also used a larger chicken than what he calls for, along with using a whole stick of cinnamon instead of a half stick. One of the interesting things that The Kitchn article points out is that Jamie’s recipe originally called for browning it in butter, but has since updated it to olive oil. Also, the Kitchn noted that covering the chicken for half the cooking time results in a more flavor-infused chicken. That made a lot of sense to me, so here’s how I made my rendition of this dish:

chicken braised in milk, sage and lemon zest recipe

chicken braised in milk, sage and lemon zest recipe

  • 1 whole chicken, 5 pounds
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Kerrygold butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium-size cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 12 cloves unpeeled garlic
  • 10 leaves fresh sage
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk

Preheat oven to 375°

Season the bird with salt and pepper. In a pan just large enough to fit the whole bird in, add the butter and olive oil. Brown the bird well on both sides. (I also used a pair of long tongs to hold the bird and brown the leg/wing sides a bit)

Remove chicken from pan and drain excess fat. Place chicken back in pan, toss in the rest of the ingredients and bake for 45 minutes with the lid on. Remove the lid and continue cooking for another 45 minutes. (total cooking time: 1 1/2 hours)

That’s it! What you’ll find when you open the oven door to remove the bird is a bubbling cauldron of deliciousness. I squeezed in 4 whole small red potatoes to the pan at the beginning and they cooked beautifully (and tasted wonderful).

One other thing Jamie’s recipe doesn’t specify is whether to cook the bird breast side up or down. I did mine up, so that the caramelization happened on top. But, after the fact, it appears The Kitchn cooked theirs upside down, immersing the breast in the sauce. (I’m judging strictly by the photos in their article) This would certainly add to the moistness and flavor of the breast meat, though even breast-side up, it turned out great.

Will I make this again? You bet! It was very easy to prepare and the results were terrific. Next time, I’ll add some more fresh sage and try it breast-side down, though.

Have you ever cooked chicken in milk? I’d love to hear about it! Thanks for stopping by.

18 thoughts on “braised chicken with lemon, sage and milk

  1. I was with you until the “brown the bird well” part. Then a thin line of sweat formed on my brow. I pictured my fire alarms going off. Chicken skin sticking to the pan.

    Is it possible to make this without browning it stove top?

    • Oh my gosh, I had the same concern! But it actually worked pretty well, using a long pair of tongs and hot enough of an oil/butter mix. Chicken skin can be tricky and you can actually see in my photo where the skin still split just a bit. I’ll be honest though – it’s not a clean (definitely gonna have to clean the stove top) process. I would be willing to bet that it’s a lot easier and less messy just sticking it a few racks down underneath the broiler. You’re probably still going to get some smoke, so disable that alarm, but you could do it this way and not turn it over. Just brown the top so, while it’s browning, the oil/butter is also browning. Then, switch the oven over to bake at 375, take the pan out and add the rest of the ingredients, then pop it all back in the oven. You may lose a little of the caramelized flavor but not much. And please don’t forget to enable the smoke alarm when you’re done. 🙂

  2. I never have cooked chicken in milk, but need to try this. I am surprised the potatoes were not overdone given the cooking time, but maybe there is magic in milk. Thanks for this

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