A one-pot technique for the most tender roast chicken, with the most strangely appealing sauce. The lactic acid in milk makes meat especially tender and turns into an amazingly flavorful sauce. Some of you will want the sauce to be smooth and refined. You can blend it, but frankly, scraping it all up to do so is a chore. Or, according to Cook's Illustrated, you can add a few tablespoons of fat to keep the sauce from curdling: "The fat molecules ... surround the casein clusters, preventing them from bonding," they say. But the added fat is unnecessary, plus the curds are the best part, and the split sauce is actually the point. Adapted slightly from Happy Days with the Naked Chef (Hachette Books, 2002). —Genius Recipes
1 hour 45 minutes
3-pound (1 1/2-kilogram) organic chicken
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
(1 stick or 115 grams) butter or olive oil
good handful fresh sage, leaves picked
lemons, zest peeled in thick strips with a peeler
Preheat the oven to 375° F and find a snug-fitting pot for the chicken. Season the chicken generously all over with salt and pepper and fry it in the butter or olive oil, turning the chicken to get an even color all over, until golden. Remove from the heat, put the chicken on a plate, and throw away the butter left in the pot (or save for another use). This will leave you with tasty sticky goodness at the bottom of the pan, which will give you a lovely caramel flavor later on.
Put your chicken back in the pot with the rest of the ingredients, then cook it in the preheated oven for 1 1/2 hours. Baste with the cooking juice when you remember. (Oliver leaves the pot uncovered, but you can leave it partially covered if you'd like it to retain more moisture and make more sauce.) The lemon zest will sort of split the milk, making a sauce, which is absolutely fantastic.
To serve, pull the meat off the bones and divide it on to your plates. Spoon over plenty of juice and the little curds. Serve with wilted spinach or greens and some mashed potato.
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