Chicken in Milk

I’ve always been a fan of Jamie Oliver. Perhaps it’s his relaxed, almost reckless, approach to cooking or the relative simplicity of his recipes that I find appealing. So, when I came across his recipe for “Chicken in Milk” adapted by Sam Sifton, on the New York Times “Cooking” website a few weeks ago, I thought I’d make it the subject of a post on my blog.

After reading the recipe a second time, however, I started to page through its “Cooking Notes” submitted by readers. Three of them caught my interest. One reader who had prepared the dish several times found that she achieved the best result by using shelf-stable milk like Parmalat. Another contributor cited a German video of Jamie making the dish where he was doing things differently from the Times’ adaption, for example, cutting the lemons in thick slices whose peels are used for the sauce and stuffing them, along with the stems of the sage leaves that had been picked for the sauce. She also mentioned that he used considerably more butter. Scrolling through the rest of the notes, I eventually discovered the reader who initially mentioned the above-cited video, provided a link to it (see below), and said that Jamie used wet parchment to cover the chicken to keep it moist while it cooked.

Jamie Oliver Chicken in Milk Video

After doing some more research and viewing the ten-year-old video in German with no subtitles, I decided to incorporate most of the differences cited by the three readers in the recipe I’m presenting here and that I used to prepare the dish.

The chicken yielded by this version of the recipe is deliciously aromatic with strong notes of sage and cinnamon. The chicken, perfectly cooked, moist and tender, is infused with sweet savors from the unpeeled garlic cloves (10 of them) and citrus notes from the lemons. The same flavors are perfectly balanced in the rich sauce full of curds from the lemon zests splitting the milk.  My only regret was that the chicken was not as crispy as I had expected, but with a chicken this good, it’s a disappointment that’s easily forgotten.

As Jamie did in the video, I served the chicken over creamy polenta and spooned the sauce with its tasty curds over it.

Chicken in Milk (adapted from a recipe by Jamie Oliver on The New York Times “Cooking” website)



1 (3- to 4-pound) whole chicken, legs tied with kitchen string
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup unsalted butter, divided
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus some for drizzling the chicken
1 small cinnamon stick, or half a large one
2 lemons, peeled into wide strips and then sliced ¼-inch thick
10 cloves garlic, skins left on
2½ cups whole milk, shelf-stable if possible
1 handful of fresh sage, leaves picked — around 15 to 20 leaves, save the stems

Prep for the chicken
Prep for the sauce


1. Heat oven to 375° F. Drizzle the chicken with some olive oil and then season it aggressively with the salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity with the lemon slices and the stems from the sage.

Seasoning with salt & pepper
Stuffing with lemon slices
Olive oil drizzle
Stuffing with sage stems
The chicken seasoned and stuffed

2. Place an oven-safe pot that will fit the chicken snugly over medium-high heat on the stove, and add the butter and olive oil. (I used an enameled cast-iron oval Dutch oven.)

Melting the butter

3. When the butter has melted and is starting to foam, add the chicken breast side up to the pot and fry it, turning every few minutes, until it has browned all over. Approximately 6 to 7 minutes a side.

Browning the breast
Browning the back

4. Turn the heat down to low, remove the chicken from the pot and place it onto a plate, then drain off all but a few tablespoons of the fat from the pot.

Finished browning

5. Add the cinnamon stick and garlic to the pot, and allow them to sizzle in the oil for 1 to 2 minutes, and then add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. Then return the chicken to the pot breast side up along with the lemon rinds and sage leaves. Pour in the milk around the chicken and bring it to a simmer.

Sizzling the garlic and cinnamon
Adding the butter
Chicken with sage leaves, lemon rinds, and milk

6. Cover the chicken with a large piece of moistened parchment paper. Slide the pot into the oven, and bake for approximately 1½ hours, basting the chicken occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through and tender and the sauce has reduced into a thick, curdled sauce. (If the sauce is reducing too quickly, put a cover halfway onto the pot.)

Chicken covered with parchment paper

7. To serve, use a spoon to divide the chicken onto warmed plates. Spoon sauce over each serving. Goes well with sautéed greens, polenta, pasta, rice, potatoes, or crispy bread.


Wine Pairing: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc

3 thoughts on “Chicken in Milk

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