Remember when Steve and I went gluten-free for three weeks, with unintentionally hilarious results? Well, we are now finishing week two of a new dietary experiment: eating dairy-free. For the last two weeks we have stopped eating any form of dairy, once again to see if it helps at all with my chronic inflammation issues. So far, nothing has changed. We haven’t had any new flare ups, like we did when we went off gluten, but it’s not looking like dairy is really the culprit. We’ll give it another week.
The interesting thing is that we find going dairy-free harder than going gluten-free. Milk and its byproducts are in everything. Getting a sandwich for lunch becomes a real challenge when you don’t know if the bread has been made with milk or butter (which is very common). Eating breakfast is even more difficult for us, given our love of baked goods in the morning. And cream and cheese are incredibly common in so many dishes and different cuisines, from Italian to Mexican to Indian. We’ve been eating a lot of Chinese and Japanese food that is generally free of dairy. For the mornings, we’ve been using a cashew milk we found at the store that is similar to the almond and macadamia milk I wrote about last time. It’s ok in coffee and for granola but it’s definitely not the same as cow milk.
In a week we will start eating dairy again, unless we see a dramatic change in the next few days. One of the first things I plan to make is this chicken cooked in milk. It sounds strange, I know, but it’s based on a recipe by Jamie Oliver that has become somewhat of a viral sensation. This version uses a slow-cooker, as opposed to the original that bakes the chicken in the oven. The result is astonishing. The chicken is tenderized by the milk to such an extent, that removing it from the slow cooker in one piece is impossible. The meat literally falls off the bone. And the flavor is earthy and wholesome, thanks to the combination of milk, sage, and garlic, but with a welcoming zing of lemon zest. Nothing would be better for toasting the end of a dairy-free diet.
Slow Cooker Chicken in Milk – Slightly adapted from The Kitchn
1 4 lb chicken
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil or canola oil
1 cup hard cider or apple juice
10 cloves garlic, left unpeeled
1/4 cup lightly packed sage leaves
1/2 whole cinnamon stick (about 3 inches long)
Zest from two medium lemons
2 1/4 cups whole milk
Remove the chicken from its packaging and discard the bundle of giblets from inside. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel. Mix together the salt and pepper, and rub this all over the chicken.
Warm the tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Sear the chicken on all sides until deep golden-brown; use tongs to help turn it as you sear. The heat in the pan should be hot enough that you hear a constant sizzle as you sear the chicken; reduce the heat slightly if the oil begins to smoke.
Transfer the seared chicken to the bowl of a 6-quart or larger slow cooker and lay it breast-side down (this is important; you want the breast to be in the milk).
Pour off any grease left in the pan and return the pan to heat. Add the cider and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan as the cider simmers. Continue simmering the cider until it has reduced by roughly half. Pour the cider over the chicken.
Rub any loose papery skins from the garlic cloves, but otherwise leave them in their peels. Scatter the garlic cloves, sage leaves, cinnamon stick, and lemon zest on top of and around the chicken, then pour the milk over top.
Cover the slow cooker and cook for 4 to 6 hours on low heat.
To serve, lift the chicken from the slow cooker and transfer it to a cutting board; the legs or wings will probably fall off. Carve the chicken into pieces (I couldn’t carve it because it was too tender, so I served it in big pieces as they came off the chicken); you can leave the skin on or remove it, as you like.
Scoop the garlic cloves from the cooking liquid and scatter them over the chicken pieces. Transfer the liquid to a serving dish, straining if you’d prefer to remove the solid curds (although they’re tasty!). Serve everything hot.