As if I needed another reason.
My love for the Naked Chef was born many years ago, back when the Food Network actually showed cooking shows, hosted by real chefs, using real ingredients (no tablescapes or canned frosting). I loved Jaime because he was young, cute, with a delightful accent and slightly manic energy. And his food was delicious. In fact, as I'm sure you'll remember, his pea, spinach and feta salad was one of the first recipes I discovered on my own that was so enchanting it entered our regular family rotation and convinced me that some day I might actually have a kitchen "repetoire".
Then he went ahead and did this show where he took a group of at risk, underprivileged youth, and trained them in the culinary arts and put them to work running their own (highly successful) restaurant, all in as tasteful and non-exploitative a manner as possible, given the medium of reality television. Oh, and then he also got the british government to completely revamp the school lunch program to make it healthier and more environmental. And did a documentary on the disappearance of British pig farmers. And managed to publish 10 books, have a couple of kids with ridiculously delightful hippy dippy names like "Poppy Honey", "Daisy Boo", and "Petal Blossom Rainbow", stayed married to his sweetheart, and lives a generally charmed, if somewhat ADD-addled life.
But none of this compares to this chicken.
Sure, the food politics, charity work, endless idealism, hilarious baby names and plucky spirit is nice. But nothing beats a moist braised whole chicken with burnished gold skin, sweet caramelized garlic, lemony zing and hints of earthy sage and warm cinnamon. Did I mention the creamy sauce? Oh. There's creamy sauce too.
Also it's easy. And cheap.
As another celebrity chef crush would say, "How great is that?"
I first came across this recipe here, and could not stop thinking about making it for a good few weeks after, based on the photos and the claim that this would beat out all other roast chicken recipes in my arsenal. While that's still debatable, it was kind of phenomenal. And definitely unique. When I finally got around to making it, that is.
My lovely mis en place. The ingredients were just so pleasing to the eye, I couldn't resist. And I might have been a little ridiculously excited to cook this. Especially in my beauteous blue dutch oven.
Basically, all you do is brown the chicken in some butter in a big pot, then add the garlic cloves, sage leaves and a whole mound of lemon zest (I'd say the zesting is the most labor-intensive part, just to give you an idea of how simple this is). Pour a whole mess of milk on top, slap the lid on (not exactly part of the recipe, but all the online chatter advocated leaving it covered in the oven for the first hour or so) and stick it in the oven.
What comes out is fall off the bone delicious, perfumed perfectly, with a sauce to match. With mashed potatoes and spinach it was perfect.
Here's the recipe*: a good one to tuck away for when you need some home-cooking on the road. Minimal shopping, minimal cost, and all the house perfuming comfort you could ask for.
*I would definitely recommend cooking the chicken with the lid on for the first hour, then removing it for the last 30 minutes or so. This sort of braises the chicken instead of just roasting it, and keeps the meat super moist. mmm.