milk-braised chicken with lemon, cinnamon & sage

December 30, 2009

So there are two litres of milk in the fridge.

No, that’s not the fridge. It’s the back porch. Yes, I took my two litres of milk out to the back porch for a photoshoot. Yes, I know that’s ridiculous, now be quiet because that isn’t the important part. The important part is the row of little black letters printed on the bottle.

Best Before: 23 Dec 09.

Today’s date is Dec 31st. Coincidentally enough, the date the milk was opened is also Dec 31st.

Dilemma? Yes?

It smells like it’s about to go- still drinkable, but just. Had some in my tea and then was faced with a quandary:

how can I use up two litres of milk before it goes kaput?

Google, of course, had the answer. Thank you, multiple amounts of people with excess milk and the ability to ask questions on blogs and forums about it. Thank you Google for caching forums! Thank you food blogs! Thank you, helpful foodies! The results were multitudinous– chowdersbisquesfrench toastpotato gratincrockpot potato gratinchicken a la king in the crockpot,chicken a la king not in the crockpotmilk-braised porkcandycakemore cakealfredo sauceice-creamdiscussions on buttermilkto freeze milkhow to make yoghurt, how to make cheese (haloumi and ricotta)… also, paint. Paint made from milk. It sounds fascinating. (Also also, a site that seems made for me- love food, hate waste. Take a gander.)

And then I found this helpful blog (with delightful analysis of the recipe and also a delicious-looking piece on zuni-style brined chicken), which along with this and this led me here. Hello, Jamie Oliver and your chicken-in-milk recipe!

chicken in milk recipe

This photo is shamelessly stolen from the Jamie Oliver site. I’m not entirely sure how to tell them I have the photo, and besides, I don’t think he’d care. Anyway. Being possessed of four skinless chicken thigh cutlets, it seemed good to attempt this recipe with the usual substitution method. Below is the list altered to the state of my pantry and fridge:

Ingredients:

chicken
salt & black pepper
butter
olive oil

1/2 tsp cinnamon
1tbsp dried sage leaves
zest of 1 lemon
2 cups milk (milk component, hurrah!)
7 garlic cloves.

The recipe called for putting a pot into the oven, but I decided I’d adapt it for my crockpot because I adore my crockpot. Also, it’s far less washing-up this way. Now.

Please hold for an interlude of garlic.

Indeed, milk is not the only thing that got a photoshoot today.

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… isn’t it beautiful?

This is garlic at peace.

.

Y’know, root vegetables also convey the beauty and grandeur of Creation. I’m not kidding.

“For the flower glorifies God and the root parries the adversary.”

Christopher Smart, from his crazy, glorious Jubilate Agno (put to music by Britten, the resulting Rejoice in the Lamb makes me want to sing and cry at the same time). Now garlic may not be a flower, but it’s certainly a root. And apparently it has swordfights with the devil. You can’t get more awesome than that.

Garlic in a net. I love the shadows and the strange, twisty lines of it.

Bliss. Interlude concludes. On with the recipe!

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Chicken braised in milk with lemon, garlic, cinnamon and sage.

Method as follows:

Roll meat in salt and pepper.

One day I’ll equip myself with kosher salt and a pepper grinder. Before that day, iodised salt and a shaker of cracked peppercorns will do fine.

Brown in saucepan/skillet/heavy-bottomed cooking object on stove, with the butter and the olive oil.

I pulled my chicken thigh cutlets straight out of the freezer so I was a little worried about hygiene and safety, but decided to experiment anyway. As it is, I have no idea how to brown frozen chicken. Wasn’t entirely sure how brown a browned chicken is supposed to look either, but never mind that.

Transfer vaguely-browned chicken into warmed crockpot.

I’ve been told that putting hot foods into a cold crockpot or vice versa may crack the stoneware, so no harm in turning the crockpot to low beforehand. Now at this junction, Jamie Oliver and so forth said to pour away the fats or use it for other tasty frying things. I poured the oils on top of my chicken because I really like my fats.

Zest a lemon onto all of it. Enjoy smell of fresh lemon. Mmmm, lemon.


Following this, pour on two cups of milk, chuck in the seven peeled cloves of garlic and dust on the sage and cinnamon.

I may have gone overboard with the sage a little. You can’t tell in this photo, but there are little green archipelagos of herb in a sea of oiled milk. Ah well.

Also, I’ve just realised that the chicken piece on top has a protuberance that looks unfortunately like a thumb. This is disturbing me no end.

Put the lid on the crockpot and turn it on high.

I chucked it in at 2 am. At 4:00am,  it looked like this…

… and it smelled absobloodylutely delicious.  The- the lemon! And the meat, and the sage and garlic- oh goodness, oh dear gracious God of good things. I can’t believe my family wasn’t awake and raving right at that moment; the smell wafted right through the house and I’m in the room furthest from the kitchen but I could still smell it. And it smelled like bliss.

At 5:30am I turned the crockpot down to low. The meat was falling off the bone with the help of a fork. Just after 7am*, I turned it off and went to dine.

Doesn’t it look lovely, sitting in a pool of sauce with the curds scattered in the cracks? You’ll get the verdict after one more picture, I promise.

Verdict

After reading the rave reviews and eager recommendations of this recipe, I was keen to try this bounteous wonder out. And!

And. Well, it was okay. It was- it was mildly palatable.

It was a mild letdown. A bit of one. I mean, the texture was perfect. The chicken was meltingly soft, the curds lent some interesting rhythm and the bones slid right out without difficulty. Without any major judgements as yet about the taste, I found the chicken to be adequately salty and infused with a sweet, lemony, milky flavour. I couldn’t spot the cinnamon, but then I’m notoriously bad at over-cinnamoning due to my inability to taste the bugger. I’m uncertain as to what sage tastes like, not having previous experience with the herb, but no distinctly sage-ish flavours threw themselves at me screaming “Overkill!” so that was okay too.

The taste was- it was edible, it was palatable, it was passable. In the end I had to support it with some leftover roast kumara and pumpkin and decided I had a mild dislike for this recipe after finishing my meal. Mild dislike in this case- as in all food cases- meaning “I wouldn’t choose it again, but I’ll eat some of it if it’s put in front of me.”

This disappointed me. I really, really wanted to like this. It looked so good and smelled even better. But I guess it’s like bread and coffee in that taste-smell division, particularly because my disliking it was, I think, a personal thing (and we’ll find out in four hours, when the Parents and the Brother have this for lunch). I personally prefer my flavours strong and savoury, you see, so the thing I liked most about this was the garlic, melted and floating and delicious scooped up and eaten with the lemony curds. The chicken was simply too sweet. The lemon fought the milk flavours on my tastebuds and lost, and the battle made me queasy.** Moreover, I wanted more garlic and kept fishing that 0ut of the pot rather than the meat, which has never happened before.

I’m wondering what the flavour issue was, what I could have improved. More garlic, certainly. Was it the sage? I don’t know what sage tastes like so I don’t know if it was the sage. Perhaps I should have added some cumin.  Also, did I drown the chicken in too much milk? Maybe it’s because I used small chicken thigh cutlets rather than one whole chicken and the milk-and-lemon flavour was too overpowering for the former. Or maybe I just don’t like milk in things that aren’t soups or baking.

… this does not bode well for the 2litres-minus-2cups amount of milk we have left. I may abandon it to my parents, some baking and multiple cups of tea.

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* You’re reading things right. I am having dinner at 7 in the morning. I’m doing nocturnal hours, nowadays.

** In smell, the lemon-milk battle reminded me of a feta, lemon, tomato and olive-oil bake I made a month ago. That was delicious and amazing. For some reason, this, with almost the same variety of flavours, wasn’t. I want to wail “I don’t know why!” at the ceiling because honestly, I had such hopes for this recipe.

Alas. Ah well, we’ll see what The Mother thinks, later on.

3 Responses to “milk-braised chicken with lemon, cinnamon & sage”

  1. tommo39 Says:

    You has a blog. Why was I not notified of this sooner! Tut tut.


  2. IT’s not much of a blog, man. It’s about cooking, for goodness sake. And it’s not that frequently updated either. I mean, a blog about food is all very well, but it’s not particularly people-friendly. Or at least not our-kind-of-people-friendly.

    I know some people who’d start screaming poison and murder at the mention of me + recipe.

  3. tommo39 Says:

    Mmmmmmmmm this looks so yummy!!!!!!!!!! CHICKEN!!!!!!! MMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Looks so goooooood………..


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