Whole chicken braised with milk, mustard and herbs, which makes for a wonderfully moist and flavourful chicken and a great gravy!
I thought I'd share this lovely braised whole chicken recipe this week for a couple of reasons. First, it makes an easy and delicious chicken dinner anytime and everyone can use more of those!
Secondly, with Canadian Thanksgiving coming up this weekend, I thought it might make a nice stand-in for that large Thanksgiving turkey, which might not be happening this year as gathering sizes shrink.
It takes just a few minutes to prepare the chicken, then into the oven, to cook with some onion and garlic, along with a lovely milk, broth, mustard and herb mixture. Once out of the oven, remove the chicken to rest while you quickly thicken and season the gravy. Then, simply slice, top with gravy and enjoy. (There's lots of gravy, so make some mashed potatoes to go alongside!).
Herbs - Your choice of herbs is totally up to you. You can use dried or fresh herbs. Simply pick an herb you like and run with it. Or use a mixture of herbs. Here I used marjoram, which is similar to oregano, but milder in flavour. Thyme, rosemary, oregano and tarragon are other good choices. Or channel Thanksgiving flavours with a mixture of sage, savory and thyme.
Dijon Mustard and Mustard Powder - I used regular Dijon mustard, but a dijon-based grainy mustard would also be nice here. I think regular prepared yellow mustard might be a bit too harsh a flavour here. Powdered mustard, such as Keen's, is nice addition, but if you don't have on hand, you can simply add a touch more Dijon.
Milk - I used whole milk and it's what I would recommend, for creaminess, though a lower fat milk will work here as well (may require additional thickening at the end of cooking). A non-dairy milk should work here, though I haven't tested it and I don't know how it performs in this type of cooking.
You will also need - olive or other cooking oil, chicken broth, cornstarch (for thickening gravy) and salt and pepper.
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What is Braising? Braising simply means cooking meat (or poultry) with liquid. And while we generally think of braising as being done in a covered pot, that is not always the case. When it comes to tougher cuts of meat, covering while cooking with liquid produces steam that softens and tenderizes the meat. Sometimes though, steaming doesn't produce the best results, such as with poultry, which tends to become stringy and/or mushy when steamed. In this case, we can get the best of both worlds by uncovered braising - using an uncovered pan so the poultry will still dry-roast, but combining it with liquid to provide a bit of a moist environment. This method produces a wonderfully tender, flavourful and moist result!
Can I add lemon juice or wine to the milk mixture? I have intentionally left out any acidic ingredients here, as their addition will cause the milk to split while it cooks, producing small white curds in the gravy. Some people may not mind that, but I personally prefer a creamy, smooth gravy here.
Do I need to use a cast-iron skillet? No. A cast-iron skillet is perfect for this dish, as it goes from stove-top to oven easily and makes wonderfully flavourful gravy! That said though, any similar-sized, oven-proof skillet or dish will work. It can be shallow or a bit deeper. More important is that it isn't too much larger than your chicken, so that the milk mixture maintains a good depth during cooking and doesn't risk cooking dry. My skillet shown here is a 10-inch top diameter skillet and my chicken was 1.4kg (about 3 lbs.).
Is the mustard taste really strong? No it isn't at all! In fact, once cooked, the mustard is so mellow that it is reduced to just a subtle flavour note in the gravy, that unless you knew it was in there, you'd be hard pressed to identify.
- Do note that cooking time will vary depending on the exact size of your chicken. Cook until cooked through and when the thickest part of the breast measures 165F when tested with an instant read thermometer (affiliate link).
- If your chicken seems at risk of over-browning on top, but is not yet cooked thoroughly, simply place a small square of aluminum foil on the top, to prevent further browning.
- Be sure to taste and season your gravy generously at the end of cooking. Gravy should be a little salty and the seasoning will bring together all of the wonderful flavours.
- This recipe was inspired by a Donna Hay recipe. I have made several changes from her original recipe.
Milk Braised Whole Chicken with Mustard and Herbs
- 3 lb. whole chicken
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup milk (whole milk recommended)
- 3/4 cup chicken broth or stock
- 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- 1 Tbsp fresh herbs (chopped, or 1 tsp dried *See Note 1 below)
- 1 small onion (peeled and quartered)
- 2 garlic cloves (whole, peeled)
For thickening and seasoning gravy:
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 2 Tbsp cold water
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Heat oil over medium-high heat, in an ovenproof skillet on the stove-top. Meanwhile, season chicken with salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Make the milk braising mixture by combining all the ingredients in a large measuring cup and whisking together well. Prepare the onion and garlic. Set aside.
- Add chicken to hot skillet, breast side down and sear until it develops a bit of colour. Flip and sear the underside and set on its side to sear both sides as well. You don't have to worry about developing a lot of colour. We just want to cook off a bit of the fat a bit and seal the outside of the chicken.
- Remove chicken to a plate and spoon or pour off any fat in the pan. Return the chicken to the pan. Add the onion and garlic. Pour in the milk/mustard mixture.
- Place skillet into preheated oven uncovered, and roast until the chicken is cooked, measuring at least 165F internal temperature, when tested in the thickest part of the breast meat with an instant read thermometer, about 1 hour.
- Remove from oven and then remove the chicken to a cutting board to rest. Place the skillet back onto the stove-top over medium heat. Stir together the cornstarch and water until smooth. Add to the skillet a bit at a time, stirring well between additions, until the gravy is the desired thickness. Taste the gravy and season well with salt and freshly ground pepper.
- You can use all one kind of herb or a mixture of different herbs. You can use either dried or fresh herbs. I used Marjoram here, but Thyme, Oregano or Tarragon are other good options.