Chicken Cooked in Milk
This dish required a big leap of faith. But the payoff was spectacular.
Why This Recipe Works
Milk braising is an Italian technique, most notably used with pork; it yields a rustic, nutty sauce of toasted milk curds and supermoist meat. Chicken cooked in milk is a nod to this technique. For a simple method with remarkable (and more attractive) results, we started the dish cold, first whisking baking soda into whole milk in a Dutch oven to raise the milk's pH into neutral territory, which minimized curdling later on. To give the sauce a bright note, we then added white wine (after the baking soda so the acid did not reverse the pH fix we'd found) and, for complexity, a fistful of crushed peeled garlic cloves that turned mellow and slightly sweet in the oven. We baked the chicken with the milk mixture in the uncovered pot in a 425-degree oven for an hour, until the skin was golden brown and the meat ultramoist. To amplify the toasty notes of the sauce, we reduced it in the pot on the stovetop while the chicken rested, adding a few swipes of lemon peel and a bunch of thyme to give the sauce a final bright lift. Whisking frequently meant the soft roasted garlic broke up in the sauce, giving it body and savory flavor throughout. For good measure, we passed the finished sauce through a fine-mesh strainer to easily remove the lemon peel and thyme sprigs and smooth out any errant curds. Since a dark, hard-to-scrub-off ring of baked-on milk formed around the pot, we sprayed the sides with nonstick cooking spray at the start to make cleanup much easier.