Sunday nights used to be big family dinner nights – but this was before The Cherub (as the Salad Dodger calls Holly) and before my eldest stepson – whose appetite could rival a rugby lock after a hunger strike – decamped to London to find his fortune. Now, Sundays are for big batch cooking. And Mondays are for slumping incoherently over the leftovers.
Roast chicken has always been my Sunday fallback. This week I decide to do two birds (see big-batch above) and use the opportunity to try Abi’s recipe for chicken braised in Dijon mustard and milk on one and do the other Thomas Keller-style, my most-trusted method. It’s a chook-off! (Note: Its just the two of us for dinner.)
I have tried another version of the roast chicken-in-milk on the Salad Dodger before. It didn’t go well. To be honest, I wasn’t blown away either. A friend had recommended Jamie Oliver’s version which is made in a covered ovenproof casserole so there is zero chance of crispy skin. Also the milky sauce ended up unpleasantly curdled. Hence the Thomas Keller back-up bird. I discovered this recipe in his Bouchon cookbook years ago and it was revelatory. Truss chicken, salt generously, roast, eat with butter & mustard. Not using olive oil, lemon juice, butter – ie. nothing that would create moisture – results in the crispiest, juiciest bird I had ever tasted. Why mess with perfection?
I follow Abi’s recipe fastidiously. It’s not difficult. Truss, season, mix ingredients for the braising liquid & pour around the bird. The only thing I don’t have are celery seeds, so I add some fennel seeds & bay leaves on a whim.
Abi’s chicken is roasted uncovered in a roasting tin. Halfway through cooking, I take it out and tap the skin which crackles like a paper bag filled with unmarked bills. Result.
The liquid has reduced and thickened to a golden, creamy, bubbling sauce and because it looks so unbelievably good, I deviate from the recipe and baste the chicken with it. I should not have done this. If you like your chicken skin crispy, be smart – follow the recipe.
When I present both chickens to the SD, carved and pre-identified – with the creamy, mustardy sauce alongside. He opts for the braised bird first off. I casually mention that I’ve made it before and that it was braised in milk with Dijon mustard (genius ingredient) and lemon. He’s undeterred.
“What’s braised?” he says through enthusiastic mouthfuls, followed by, “this is the best roast chicken you’ve ever made.”
Last week in What Kate Ate: The New Bolognese.